Rotorua's homeless are back sleeping rough again after those behind the city's night shelter have closed the doors.

Its operator Tiny Deane has said it would take a "pure miracle" for it to reopen at the current location as those who used the shelter were not allowed to sleep there under its current building consent.

He said he did not have a choice because he did not have the money available to pay a fine of $200,000 that could be imposed if people fell asleep in the shelter.

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A Facebook post from the Visions of a Helping Hand Charitable Trust on Saturday revealed the shelter, which opened six weeks ago, was to close.

"We have been awaiting council consent for change of use (sleeping) and waiting for fire and earthquake building reports," the post by general manager Tiny Deane said.

"In the interim we were instructed to keep patrons awake or face being evicted during the night by council, fire and police departments.

"We attempted this, however it proved too difficult with our elderly patrons and some undergoing cancer treatment."

The post said the charitable trust was continuing to work with the council to resolve the issues.

The shelter was first opened at the start of June. The arrangement was always that homeless could not sleep there, the council said.

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Four weeks later it was discovered homeless people were sleeping there. They were told they could not do so.

Rotorua Lakes Council staff had inspected the property and found the site was being used for overnight sleeping, a breach of the agreement between the council and Deane.

Rotorua Lakes Council staff found the site was being used for overnight sleeping, a breach of the agreement between the council and organiser Tiny Deane, of Visions of a Helping Hand. Photo/Ben Fraser
Rotorua Lakes Council staff found the site was being used for overnight sleeping, a breach of the agreement between the council and organiser Tiny Deane, of Visions of a Helping Hand. Photo/Ben Fraser

Homeless were told they could still go there overnight, but could not sleep there until work had been done on the building to ensure it was safe for the purpose of overnight sleeping.

In a statement a council spokeswoman said the council was continuing to work with Visions of a Helping Hand Trust to establish a night shelter.

"We need to ensure any building being used as a shelter is safe for this purpose before it can operate as such. This is for the protection of the occupants, as well as the owners and operators."

The spokeswoman said the council had been working with the operators of the drop-in centre, Ministry of Social Development, iwi and community groups.

"We have been able to get MSD working directly with the homeless people who visit the day-time drop-in centre. The ministry, as lead agency for emergency and social housing, has told us that it can provide options for people," she said.

"We also continue to work towards longer-term solutions to address homelessness in our community."

The spokeswoman said the council did not require the centre to close but had on Friday reminded Visions of a Helping Hand the centre could not be used as overnight accommodation.

"This followed concerns raised with us during the week and given our role in ensuring buildings meet legally required standards, we were obligated to reinforce that, including the consequences of operating a building illegally.

"The building the centre is in cannot be used for accommodation until a change of use is consented and this requires both fire and structural issues to be addressed. The safety requirements for a building for use as accommodation are higher than those for use as an office, for which the building is currently consented."

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the decision to close was Deane's.

"It was complex from the start and I think he's now realised there are complex issues."

Chadwick said she was sad to hear of the centre's closure.

"We've got to learn from this. This is a complex issue," she said.

"I think it's sad the gap we're left with."

Deane told the Rotorua Daily Post it would "take a pure miracle" to reopen the homeless shelter at the existing location but he wanted to look at moving it to another building he leased on Pukuatua St.

He said the charitable trust planned to look at the consents and changes required for a change of use for the new building. He said a fire report, engineering and earthquake reports had already been done.

Areas the homeless have slept since the temporary closure on Saturday included by the Te Rūnanga Tea House in Government Gardens, the bushes and the doorway of Work and Income, he said.

He said it was "pretty devastating" for them all.

"I love Rotorua, and now since I've been working with the homeless I love the homeless.

"They are people like me and you, and I believe people deserve second chances."

One of the patrons of the homeless shelter, Colin Scott, said the homeless community was disappointed to hear of its closing and the shelter was highly valuable to them.

"It gives them time to sort their personal problems out and they are able to sit down and discuss what help is available."

Councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said she was disappointed to hear the news and wanted to see a shelter up and running as soon as possible.

"I'd like to think it could have been done by now. I just want to see it done asap."