Organisations around Rotorua have banded together to try and get a clear picture of homelessness in the city - and what can be done about it.

The Rotorua Homeless Head Count took place on Monday. Volunteers from community groups slept in parks, cars and other public places to find out how many people are living without housing in the city.

The count was co-ordinated by the Rotorua Homelessness Governance Group which is made up of key organisations such as Lifewise, Housing NZ and LinkPeople.

It was completed as part of the Rotorua Homeless Action Plan launched in 2015.


A key step to implementing the plan was understanding the size of the problem and the resources needed to support people into housing.

During the count volunteers recorded how many homeless people were found, along with their demographic details, providing a snapshot of those sleeping rough on one evening. The information will be used to write a report on rough sleeping in Rotorua.

In a joint statement, Lifewise and Link People said 34 volunteers had helped with the inaugural count.

"The objective was to understand the scale of rough sleeping and the kinds of services people might need. The survey was anonymous and a snapshot only."

LinkPeople chief executive Christine Hall added: "Early results from the community-wide initiative indicate that some people were recently homeless, others had been homeless for more than 10 years. Most were from the Rotorua area."

The surveys are being analysed and a full report and results from the count are being collated.

Visions of a Helping Hand drop-in centre manager Caroline Ngamotu said they searched for people in homeless hotspots and asked them questions like why they were out there and the reasons behind it, as well as questions to paint a picture of the demographics.

Ngamotu said in her work she got to know some of the homeless in the city and did her best to help them.


"But for homelessness it's not just about getting them housed. It's about learning the skills, like paying rent and budgeting and dealing with emotional stuff," Ngamotu said.

She said Rotorua had a lot of support systems for homeless.

"I think they are blessed, there's a lot of places they can go to eat in Rotorua. We're very lucky to have places like here," she said.

"I do see some who want to be out there then we get the odd person that's really trying their hardest to get off [the street] and find jobs."

Elmer Peiffer, with his wife Gina, said they are seeing up to 42 people a day at Love Soup. Photo / File
Elmer Peiffer, with his wife Gina, said they are seeing up to 42 people a day at Love Soup. Photo / File

Love Soup co-founder Elmer Peiffer said he had noticed an increased number of homeless people living in their cars using his service.

"Homeless are people from those couch-surfing, to in their vehicles in streets, in garages. They all classify as homeless and they are welcome to our service."

Peiffer said the number of people who show up for dinner varied day-to-day but ranged from five to 42.

He said some people didn't use the services available because they weren't aware they existed.

"I think what needs to happen is they need to be aware of services that are provided and people providing them need to take on everybody, no matter race or creed."

Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey took part in the homeless head count because he wanted to help. Photo / File
Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey took part in the homeless head count because he wanted to help. Photo / File

Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey was also involved in the head count.

"I campaigned on finding better housing solutions for the people of Rotorua," Coffey said.

"I want to make a difference so I got involved."

Coffey said the event had been an eye-opener.

"I realised there are a lot of people who are wanting to help sort out this problem too. Our team also found a woman and her dog sleeping in her car, with a lack of options … My office made a pledge to help her and we are currently working on solutions for her."

Rotorua Lakes Council is part of Whiria Te Aroha, a collaboration of groups working together to address issues around homelessness. The group is led by Lifewise.

The council provided support during the count and is helping to collate the results which will help inform proposals for resources and services that contribute to addressing issues relating to homelessness.

Councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, who holds the people portfolio, said the information was vital.

"We often presume to know what rough sleepers and the homeless want. By asking them what their housing needs are, amongst other things, we get a clear picture, can start to prioritise where action must be taken and resources directed," Raukawa-Tait said.

"One provider cannot do it all so collaboration is important."