Tiny Deane says seeing the Rotorua homeless shelter finally open is unreal.

The centre on Pukuatua St was officially opened today following months of slow progress in bringing it to life.

Deane, from Visions of a Helping Hand Charitable Trust said opening the shelter had been due to the hard work of everyone, from those who donated milk, to Contact Energy, which donated $5000 of power.

Claire Gallagher from Four Square with Tiny Deane from Visions of a Helping Hand. Photo/Ben Fraser
Claire Gallagher from Four Square with Tiny Deane from Visions of a Helping Hand. Photo/Ben Fraser

"We've all focused on what we needed to do and we got it done," Deane said.

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"It's a number of things that come together that makes for smooth sailing.

"There are so many thank yous I've got to give."

It's been almost three months since more than 120 people marched to the doors of the Rotorua Lakes Council stressing the need for a night shelter.

At the opening Deane's wife Lynley said New Zealand was facing a housing crisis.

"For some we've been privileged to have a caring environment that has nurtured us and given us opportunities. Others have not had those opportunities.

A group gathers at the official opening of the night shelter. Photo/Ben Fraser
A group gathers at the official opening of the night shelter. Photo/Ben Fraser

"There are so many good people out there who are saying 'I want to help, I just don't know how'. All we've done is say this is a way you can help. "

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Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey said opening the shelter had taken many hours of hard work from many people in the community.

He told Deane the work had been for all the right reasons.

"We'll always be grateful for what you've done here and what you will continue to do. You have spread your mana, aroha and influence around the regions."

The owners of Four Square, Edmund Rd had contributed to the centre donating coffee, bread and other things when they could.

Claire Gallagher from the Four Square said she wanted to help but didn't know how.

"We didn't just want to put our arms out, we wanted to put our arms out and give. We're a grocery store, we have food and people need it because in New Zealand eating shouldn't be a privilege, it's a basic human right.

"The very next day in the paper was the drop-in centre and it was just so crystal clear what we could do."

Deputy mayor Dave Donaldson spoke at the opening and said it was an important day for Rotorua.

"I think that the name, Sanctuary Manaakitanga, says a lot ... The word sanctuary spells out what the kaupapa is about.

"This is all about keeping our most vulnerable safe."

Rotorua Lakes Council's kaiwhakahaere Māori Gina Rangi said the council would continue to work with Visions of a Helping Hand, other providers and agencies towards long-term solutions.

"The shelter is important while work continues to establish longer term solutions to homelessness in our community."

The shelter was unofficially opened on Saturday, August 18. Anyone who is homeless can register to sleep at the shelter at the door, between 8pm and 9pm each night.

Timeline for Sanctuary Manaakitanga
May 28 - More than 120 people marched to the doors of the Rotorua Lakes Council stressing the urgent need for a night shelter.
June 1 – A homeless shelter was spearheaded by Te Taumata o Ngāti Whakaue and Visions of a Helping Hand.
June 9 – The doors opened on Rotorua's Eruera St night shelter, Sanctuary Manaakitanga, under instruction it could not be used for overnight sleeping.
July 5 – A Rotorua Lakes Council inspection of the shelter discovered homeless people were sleeping there, a breach of the agreement between the council and Visions of a Helping Hand.
July 21 – After threats of a $200,000 fine Visions of a Helping Hand made the decision to close the night shelter.
August 1 - Visions of a Helping Hand Charitable Trust received the building consent needed to turn its current daytime drop-in centre, on Pukuatua St, into a night shelter.
August 18 - The work to make the building compliant was completed and the shelter unofficially opened.
August 22 - The official opening was held for the shelter.