A permanent facility to house the city's homeless is not an immediate priority, says Rotorua Nightshelter Trust chairman Barney Jewell.

About 35 people representing the trust, Rotorua District Council and social service organisations attended a public forum yesterday to discuss the extent of homelessness in Rotorua.

The term "homeless" described a range of circumstances but it was estimated there were between 10-20 "hard core" teenagers and adults living rough on the streets each night, the meeting heard.

Many had "burned bridges" with whanau, were illiterate, suffered mental health problems, and drug and alcohol addictions, and lacked back-up support.


The provision of acquiring a permanent facility for homeless people to use was supported by several at the forum, including resident Jim Adams and night shelter trustee Mike Pinkerton.

Mr Adams said a permanent base for the homeless was the key issue in dealing with the problem of people sleeping rough.

"There has to be a permanent, safe, secure place for the youngsters who are sleeping rough, and spending their days on the streets and in the parks."

Mr Adams had canvassed properties to buy to convert to a homeless facility.

"They must have a place to call home, and it must give them sense of safety, security and comfort.

"It is something we all take for granted and yet they are denied, it is not a matter of timing - it has to be now."

Mr Jewell, who chaired the forum, said buying a permanent building was not a priority for the trust at this stage.

"I'm not so sure if we need a permanent facility as yet.


"We can find a roof over their heads at the moment - we have the ability to use a backpackers for temporary accommodation."

Mr Jewell said the first priority was to care for the various needs of the homeless.

This included helping with appropriate identification and an address so they could access benefits, and helping with any mental health, and drug and alcohol addictions through specialised agencies, he said.

Many homeless found it difficult to obtain benefits because they did not have an address to give to Winz, the meeting heard.

Mr Jewell told the meeting he hoped there would be progress by the end of discussion.

He said it was the first time the trust and various social services had discussed the homeless issues in Rotorua together.

He suggested future forums be held every three months.

"I hope we can get a result today and an opportunity to go forward to help the homeless in Rotorua.

"We need to clear the air on some matters and talk about the future and not about the past."

Mr Jewell said the night shelter trust had been set up 14 years ago and "it seemed we are no further advanced".

The trust currently offer temporary emergency accommodation at a city backpackers, emergency food and bus fares.

There was no specific designation within the council district plan to provide short-term housing for the homeless, he said.

"The trust genuinely want to help the homeless but it needs help to do so."