Johnny Murtagh sleeps outside on a pallet underneath the few blankets he owns.
The 36-year-old is considered a rough sleeper - one of just under 90 in the Rotorua area, according a 2013 study. But that number will only grow if homelessness isn't addressed soon, community groups say.
"It's just cold here. It's tough in winter," Mr Murtagh said. "You try and keep out of sight during the day. We kind of stick to ourselves really."
Mr Murtagh grew up in Rotorua but is based in Taihape where he has accommodation. However, he has been sleeping rough in Rotorua for the last two weeks, sharing an outdoor space with his sister, her partner and their two
teenage boys before they found temporary housing this week. Now two other rough sleepers bunk down in the area.
"We have family here but we don't want to be a nuisance to them," he said. "I've been a streetie before when I used to live here and there's definitely more [homeless] since I last came up. They're as young as teenagers to old men. "Each of us is different. We all have
our own reasons for being here. But for a few of us, there's not much [money] left to get by once you pay for rent. There's nothing for kai or bills. "If there was somewhere that offered cheap accommodation, like dormitories, that would be a big help."
Mr Murtagh said the biggest challenge living on the street was finding shelter and security. He said community groups providing free meals such as Love Soup Rotorua, Rotorua Community Kai and St Luke's Church were also a huge help.
"We'll often get woken up by [security guards] and told to move on. They came around the other night. They're not too bad and we get used to it. We usually clean ourselves at the bathroom near the bus stop or at Ohinemutu and have a hot ngawha. That's important,
you have to be clean and keep your hygiene up."
Co-chairman of New Zealand Coalition to End Homelessness Corie Haddock has been working with several Rotorua community groups and government agencies to develop a strategy to tackle the issue of homelessness on behalf of the Rotorua Lakes Council.
"I came down to attend the community forum on homelessness last year and after talking with the council and the now-defunct night shelter trust we agreed to undertake a strategy on the council's behalf," Mr Haddock said.
"We are working collectively with a multi-agency approach to end homelessness."
Mr Haddock is also a service manager with Lifewise, a not-for-profit community and social development agency, which has organised the annual fundraiser next week where people volunteer to sleep rough for a night to raise money and awareness for the
cause. He said there was "limited value" in a night shelter and the focus now was on emergency accommodation for Rotorua.
"I guess like everywhere in the country homelessness is growing. Research by Otago University in 2013 (Severe Housing Deprivation: The problem and its measurements) using 2006 Census figures said 87 people were sleeping rough in the Rotorua area. We would say there's more, and 84 people were staying in non-private accommodation such as boarding houses, holiday parks, camping grounds."
Hundreds were living in temporary accommodation that was either considered unsafe or was overcrowded, Mr Haddock said.
"If you break the numbers down there [are] 92 people per 10,000 who are severely housing deprived. "The thing with homelessness is that it is not a recognised social issue. Organisations like Lifewise and other services don't get the funding and resources, hence why we're in Rotorua doing the Big Sleepout - it's about putting the issue of homelessness in front of the public and to raise resources with all the money to stay in Rotorua."
Homelessness was not a choice, he said.
"It is the consequence of other things people have going on. It's lack of options. People think they're all on the benefit but in order to get a benefit you need a physical address and it's hard to have an address if you're living in Kuirau Park.
"Those that assume homelessness is a choice, sit down and have a genuine conversation with them. They're not choosing to be there."