Rotorua's homeless problem is only getting worse, say members of a local volunteer organisation that provides meals and advice to those sleeping rough in the city.

And Rotorua's mayor agrees - saying the issue is on her agenda and those of our local MPs.

Gina and Elmer Peiffer, who are trustees and co-ordinators of Love Soup Rotorua, help feed Rotorua's homeless and needy every night of the week and say they are seeing more and more people using their service.

Mrs Peiffer said recently she had seen a marked increase in the numbers of families with children visiting them and asking for help, as opposed to singles and the occasional couple.


They have been operating in a small toilet block and kitchen on land owned by Mataatua Marae opposite Rotorua Boys' High School for about two and a half years and are getting busier every week.

Due to bad weather on Thursday the numbers of people at the Love Soup kitchen were down with about a dozen people coming along for a meal. Earlier in the week up to 24 people had visited.

Mrs Peiffer said a lot of local business donated to the cause, such as the Sudima Hotel, Countdown on Fenton St "our biggest and longest supporters, and some I can't name because they want to be anonymous".

The Peiffers don't just feed the needy, they also help them with housing, education, budgeting and life skills.

"We have immediate access to staff at Ministry of Social Development, they have called us with clients who are homeless, we network with as many people as we can," she said.

"We don't define anybody except by the simple fact they are homeless and they need help. We are the only avenue they know that's there that can really help them."

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But, she said in recent months things had got a lot worse.

"The mums and kids we have seen have blown out of proportion in the last two months, but we noticed it just after Christmas time, it's almost becoming unmanageable."

She said some people were losing their homes when landlords decided to sell because of the buoyant housing market.

"Then they have nowhere else to go because there are no places to rent.

"We will get told about families living in cars and we will try to go out and find them. Why do we do it?

"Because we can. My passion is for people and these people are my family. We don't judge, we just try and help."

A couple who wanted to remain anonymous said they had been homeless for about a year after being told their flat in Taupo had been sold.

"We then had some tenancy issues and had to move in with a family with six adults and about 10 children in a three bedroom house," a woman said.

"It's [Love Soup] brilliant, without them a lot of people would be in a really bad place. We can turn to them and they don't judge us, it's a genuine love Gina has for all of us."

She said Mr and Mrs Peiffer had helped get them onto a state housing waiting list but they were still going to Love Soup on an almost daily basis.

Love Soup Rotorua was visited on Thursday night by Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick, councillor Charles Sturt and Te Tatau o Te Arawa Board member Potaua Biasiny-Tule.

"I wanted to see this for myself, we sort of knew the size of our problem but they all need a wrap around service," Mrs Chadwick said.

"It's a sign of the property market heating up and I think the income disparity that's occurring.

"I'm glad they have this place at least, but it's a community issue and one that has to be jointly agreed on for a way forward with central government. It's on my agenda with each of our three MPs."

Mrs Chadwick said the issue was only going to get worse.

"I'm worried about hearing about the children, I'm hearing about families now and that's not good either.

"We have to find an enduring solution. I'm a realist and it's a societal problem and needs a considered and integrated response."

Also on Thursday Rotorua's Pita Pit came down for their monthly visit, donating food for those present.

Franchise owner Phil Haines said he liked what the Peiffers were doing and thought he could help out.

"We just wanted to help the homeless and also give back to the community. What these guys are doing is amazing. We don't get into discussions with the people here about their circumstances, but they are very approachable and lovely people," Mr Haines said.

-If you would like to get in touch with Love Soup Rotorua email