Rotorua's homeless will no longer sleep in the shelter in the central city but can they continue to live in flash motels on Fenton St? Journalist Kelly Makiha finds out where to now for the city's homeless.
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Rotorua's controversial night shelter in the centre of the city has been closed and it is hoped the homeless can stay in motels until they find houses.
Tiny Deane, who runs Visions of a Helping Hand Trust, says if he can keep the homeless in the two four-star Fenton St motels in the immediate future, he will be able to solve the problem of homelessness.
News of the night shelter's closure is being welcomed by central city business owners who are preparing to reopen their doors in alert level 2.
They have long complained about the antics of some of the homeless, saying they are pleased they won't see them hanging around the night shelter or loitering the streets.
There have been allegations the homeless have been taking drugs, spitting and swearing at visitors to the central city and at nearby Kuirau Park, and there have been calls to move them away from the public's view.
However, the business leaders say they are worried the problem is just being shifted.
Deane, whose trust ran the night shelter on Pukuatua St and the women's and children shelter on Tarewa Rd, said the homeless would remain in the Tuscany Villas and Emerald Spa Resort until he heard otherwise from the Government.
Deane, who is living at Tuscany Villas to manage the homeless staying there, said there were no plans to move them out in alert level 2 and in fact, he had asked the Government to keep them there as long as possible.
A spokesman from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development said details about the future for the homeless would be released in the Budget but the Government had made it clear it would continue to keep them in motels and would not put them back on the street.
However, he said it could not be guaranteed where those motels would be.
Deane said the Fenton St motels worked best and the results during the past six weeks had proved it. He said they were housing up to five individuals and families a week and the behaviour of the homeless had greatly improved since they were staying there.
He said the "zombie-like" states of some of them that had upset the central city businesses had now disappeared and each day they were engaging in karakia, waiata, parent courses, drug and alcohol courses and engaging in activities such as carving and flax weaving.
When asked what was happening with the lease at the night shelter, Deane said: "I have closed it. I will not be running a night shelter from there".
Deane said if he could keep the homeless at the two Fenton St motels for a longer period, he could rid the city of its homeless problems.
The four-star motels are among the most upmarket on Rotorua's Fenton St, which is commonly known as "motel mile".
No one from the motels responded to requests for comment. The motels' websites say they are currently closed due to Covid-19 conditions and it is not possible to book rooms online, even into next year.
While Deane admitted the motels were luxury for the homeless, he said it provided more than just comfort for them.
He said they now had a sense of belonging and they felt safe to tackle their issues, such as mental health and drug and alcohol addictions.
"It is a luxury and they don't want to lose it but it's more than that to them ... They have a feeling of self-worth and a feeling people want to help them."
He said the way the motels were set up meant they were able to closely monitor who was coming in and out, preventing bad elements from mingling with those staying there.
"I will be able to solve the problem of homelessness by doing the wrap-around services and changing the minds of those who are there."
Deane said he knew there would be concern from the tourism sector about homeless people mingling on Fenton St, however, he said now was the time to make changes in their lives while the tourism industry was quiet.
"I will not move until this problem is solved now. If there is a problem, I just get a call from our security and put my slippers on and go sort it out. But there's been no calls like that for a long time ... If anyone tries to come in blurry-eyed, we tell them to go away."
Hennessy's Irish Bar owner Reg Hennessy, who previously said drugged-out homeless from the night shelter were ruining Rotorua's reputation, said he was pleased the night shelter wouldn't reopen on Pukuatua St.
However, he warned if the Government was going to spend "all that money" paying for their motel rooms, they needed to make sure they kept them off the streets and ensured they didn't "wander" back into town.
He said all of the social services would also need to stay at the motels and look after them.
"If New Zealand is going to be spending all this money when we don't have money then surely we will see some reward."
He said he walked his dog in the area most nights and could already see the eyesore developing on Fenton St.
"Once we get it back, we don't want to scare domestic tourism away."
Long-time Rotorua retailer Mike Steiner from Steiners Interiors by Reputation, who had previously been critical of the night shelter because homeless people walked past his business on their way to Kuirau Park, said he was glad the shelter wouldn't reopen.
"I am very please about that because it was in the wrong place and that was well acknowledged. But where are they going to go? We have a social responsibility in all this."
He said having them stay at Fenton St motels surely wasn't a long-term solution.
He said police, the Rotorua Lakes Council, social service agencies, government agencies and members of the community needed to use this time to come up with a permanent solution before the economy got back up and running.
The Rotorua Daily Post asked the Ministry of Urban Development how many rooms it was paying for at the two motels and whether it was more expensive than funding homeless people to stay at the night shelter but it was unable to supply that information.
It was also unable to comment on Deane's proposal to stay at the Fenton St motels.