Tiny Deane walked to the microphone in his shorts and jandals, without any notes.
When he left the stage an hour later there were tears throughout the room.
The Visions of a Helping Hand founder was the closing keynote speaker on Thursdaynight, at Rotorua's four-day Innovation Festival.
The Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust helps fund Deane's work, and chairman Stewart Edward said they were "people with passion who understand the deprivation that occurs in our community and the things that can be done".
Deane, a former truck driver, told the crowd he barely survived a crash when a drunk driver hit him in 1999.
In 2017 his ongoing injury troubles stopped him from working.
Deane's wife, Lynley, told him get out and help charities instead, so he partnered with Rotorua's Mitai family to "Feed the Need", serving 300 meals a day.
Deane then decided Rotorua needed a homeless shelter.
He told the festival he introduced himself to "intelligent people in suits and smart dress" for advice in central Rotorua, "and the 19th person said she could help".
Local businesses also gave him free accounting, consulting and legal help to get set up quickly.
"It just got to me seeing mums and children in their cars washing their kids in public toilets on freezing mornings."
Lynley sold her house to help fund the work, and the couple mortgaged their other house to start another shelter in Taupō.
"In Rotorua, we had four staff on, two security guards, one social worker, and another person, often myself... We also employed six Māori wardens to look after the streets from 8am to 5pm every day."
He said he didn't mind being the go-to person for advice if homeless people caused trouble.
"The homeless listen to us. They know if they don't, they won't be coming in that night or we ban them for a week."
Deane broke down in tears when he recalled picking up a mother and her children from a Rotorua gang pad.
"The mum said 'thank you, you've just saved my life... I've just been kicked out of a motel by Work and Income. I was raped last night. My 10-year-old was raped. And all I was going to do was drop the kids off and [commit suicide].'
"That still gets to me. Since we've been going, we see the problem once a week."
He also said staff had got medical help for seven homeless people who had overdosed on drugs, and saved their lives.
Deane said he had been approached by community leaders from across the country, who wanted to set up women's shelters, drop-in centres and night shelters like he had.
He said without the people around him, and support from businesses and charities, nothing would have happened in the Rotorua area.
He thanked Love Soup, St Vincent de Paul, the Salvation Army, Postie Plus, Spotlight, Freedom Furniture, and Bakers Delight among other supporters.
Event director Darren McGarvie, from Firestation, was also emotional when he told Deane the speech had been "the perfect end" to the festival.
"I am speechless, this doesn't happen very often," McGarvie said.
He asked Deane how the Rotorua community could help.
Deane replied: "When you see a homeless person on the street, you don't need to give them money or give them food. Just acknowledge them, look at them and give them a smile."