The request to the council and government officials was simple: Give us a homeless shelter.
Now one year on from the Hīkoi for Homeless, when more than 120 people marched to prevent the homeless from dying on the streets in winter, Rotorua CBD is home to a homeless shelter but has it solved the crisis or brought its own?
Renee Kiriona, who organised the hīkoi, said it had achieved its purpose, to create a "scream so loud that people in power had to listen".
She said within a week a night shelter was up and running and within five months multiple government ministers were in Rotorua to announce a housing programme to end homelessness.
"But we must not get complacent as the number of homeless people in our city is still huge."
She said she would be watching to make sure champions for the homeless, such as Tiny Deane, Haehaetu Barrett and Roana Bennett, were getting the support they needed to "end the misery" of homelessness.
Deane, from Visions of a Helping Hand, believed he never intended to become involved but as progress on the hīkoi rolled on his involvement grew.
"Before I knew it I had gone from lending hīkoi organisers space to make their banners, to working alongside a collective to open a shelter."
The past 12 months had been a steep learning curve according to Deane and for almost everyone associated with the homeless but he believed Rotorua was better off for having the shelter.
Deane said when doors to the shelter first opened, there were about 75 people being helped. That number now stands at 197 with about 22 of that number described as "out-of-towners".
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"We're not seeing as many desperate situations now. I recall in the first few days of the shelter opening a man was trying to take his shoes and socks off and half the skin came off one of his feet due to gangrene," Deane said.
"We have also experienced a huge decline in the number of rough sleepers carrying weapons, largely because we have taken over their security for the night – they're not having to protect themselves."
He said he and his security staff had also become a lot wiser with drug use and he was well-aware of daytime problems that had arisen since the shelter opened and was "preaching" every second night to the rough sleepers.
"I'm pleading with them to sort out their behaviour during the daytime, I'm telling them they are making us look bad. I've told them to stop spitting, stop intimidating people and to stop asking for money – if they want money they need to get a job."
Deane said seven people from the shelter had been transitioned into sustainable housing. Three failed but four remain homed.
The Rotorua Daily Post spoke with Reg Hennessy in December last year after a member of his staff was abused and spat at by "street people".
He said it had not been this bad since he started running Rotorua city centre pubs in 1994.
But acting area commander Inspector Brendon Keenan said Rotorua police were supportive of the collective work being done in the community to support and help homeless families.
"Rotorua police are committed to working with our partner agencies and the district council to make sure our streets are safe, including the CBD area.
"We want the public to be safe and feel safe."
Elmer Peiffer from Rotorua's Love Soup believed the town's homeless situation was "a tad better" than a year ago.
"However there is still so much to be done. I know I've said this before but to really help with the situation we need homes for people to move into.
"I also think the shelter has helped but it has to be seen to be a place people can base themselves while they get things sorted and move into their own place. There has to be an end.
"But then you go straight back to the fact there aren't enough homes to go around."
Mayor Steve Chadwick said homelessness was complex and required a multi-agency approach to deal with the multiple issues.
"Anti-social behaviour is often attributed to homeless people but that's not always accurate and we encourage people to call the police if they see the likes of intimidation or aggression."
She said night shelters were not a long-term solution and supported the Ministry of Social Development's Housing First initiative launched recently in Rotorua.
- Additional reporting by Katee Shanks
The Government announced on Thursday it would be investing an extra $197 million over four years in the Housing First initiative to address homelessness.
The programme would reach 2700 homeless people and help get them into permanent homes.
Housing First was a collective response to homelessness. It offered people immediate access to housing, with "wraparound" health and welfare services, as required, backing up the placements.
Of the $197m, $103m was to support the existing operation of Housing First and $94m was for expansion.
The money covered both the cost of housing and the cost of the support services. It came as part of the Government's first Wellbeing Budget.