Homeless people sleeping on the streets might be all but eliminated since they were moved to motels but there's still inner-city help where the shelter used to be. Journalist Kelly Makiha reports.
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Rotorua's central city homeless shelter might be all packed up and gone but those needing to shower, wash their clothes or get new or used clothes for a koha can still drop in.
Visions of a Helping Hand Trust, which ran the controversial inner-city night shelter, has let the lease on its shelter building expire and all of its furniture and equipment has been moved out.
But Tiny Deane, who runs the trust, said they were still operating their support services from the building adjacent.
He said anyone who was still sleeping rough or having a hard time could use the laundromat services, showers and access cheap new or used clothing.
The night shelter and women's and children's shelter on Tarewa Rd, which is also run by the trust, were forced to shut on March 25 when New Zealand went into lockdown as communal living arrangements weren't allowed during alert level 4.
All rough sleepers, including those living in tents throughout the city, were rounded up by Government services and moved into motels.
News of the night shelter's permanent closure two weeks ago came as a relief for struggling inner-city business owners who have argued it wasn't a good look for the central city.
The trust is now operating out of two four-star motels on Fenton St - Emerald Spa Resort and Tuscany Villas - where they are looking after people who formerly used their shelters.
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Deane said there would be no changes to the current arrangement despite moving to alert level 2 this week. The Government was reported last week as saying they intended to keep homeless in motels until at least April next year.
He said they were still finding work for the homeless and helping them move into homes as housing became available.
Deane said the system at the motels worked because, with tight security, they could more closely help them.
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However, he said there was still a need for the laundry and shower services and they would keep that building open.
They were also donated new clothing by organisations such as The Warehouse, Postie and Wild Kiwi and they accepted good used clothing and goods from members of the public.
All donated items were offered for a koha.
"It's great because you might be able to get a new pair of jeans for $2," Deane said.
Social service agencies throughout the country have been reported as saying the nation's homeless problem has been all but eliminated thanks to the lockdown.
Charities in other cities where there's large amounts of homelessness, including Tauranga, Auckland and Wellington, say there are only a handful of people left on the streets in all of the major centres, some of whom had refused help.
A preliminary study by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development found that 1400 people in insecure housing around New Zealand were moved into motels during the Covid-19 lockdown to prevent them from contracting or spreading the virus. Around 640 of them had been sleeping on the street or in a car.
Housing Minister Megan Woods told the NZ Herald last week the Government would guarantee them accommodation until at least next April.
It has put aside $107m to house 1200 people, which Woods said would allow "breathing room" for permanent houses to be found. Around 400 people nationwide are no longer expected to need their motel rooms once New Zealand is in alert level 1.