Drugs, violence, the financial pressures of taking care of grandchildren and high rents are among factors driving Rotorua seniors into homelessness.
Visions of a Helping Hand Charitable Trust founder Tiny Deane said the number of people aged 60 and over turning up homeless was rising, particularly grandmothers.
Deane said he started noticing the increase in older aged people needing support about a year ago at both their women's shelter and night shelter.
Deane's wife, Lynley, said it was often financial reasons that lead seniors to homelessness. Violence, however, was another common theme.
She spoke of a retired woman being supported by the trust after becoming homeless despite owning her home with her partner.
"Because he wants to beat her up all the time, she's had to leave."
There had been two cases like this in the past six months.
Deane said the grandmothers coming to them were taking care of their grandchildren when the parents were unable to due to drugs or violence to ensure the children were kept with whānau.
When this was met with resistance by others in the family, such as the grandfather, the grandmother left to ensure she could care for her grandchildren, he said.
"They are running away ... people want better but they don't know how. How to break cycles that are so bad."
Deane said six grandmothers with their grandchildren have been put into a 12-unit property mixed with solo mums, "forming a wellbeing community" which the trust has leased for two years.
A co-ordinator will live on site with them and work as a navigator. It would be an "experiment" and had the potential to expand across Rotorua.
As well as violence and family dysfunction, Deane said, it was often too expensive for seniors to have a flat of their own, and finding a flatmate was also difficult as they got older.
"A lot of the elderly who have worked all their life are embarrassed by the situation they're in.
"They don't ask for a lot, but they're asking for help now from services like us," Deane said.
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Rotorua support co-ordinator Anne Donnell said drugs were "most definitely" the common denominator in grandparents needing to take on their grandchildren.
"It's hard for us, our children have got these problems and we're trying our best to support them as well as our mokos."
She said membership numbers were growing in the area but she had not heard of anyone who had become homeless as a result of taking on their grandchildren. She believed what she saw, however, was "just the tip of the iceberg".
"There's a lot more grandparents out there that are raising their grandchildren."
She said it was difficult to find accommodation in the city and the financial pressures placed on grandparents was a daily struggle.
"Taking on these children is a huge financial burden ... some [grandparents] are retired, some are still working. The financial strain is huge."
The organisation's national co-ordinator, Kate Bundle, said the trust had 208 families in Rotorua, with 630 children.
This increased to 190 families in Rotorua in January compared with 165 in January 2019 - a 16 per cent increase year on year. The national increase was 12 per cent.
Rotorua had more than a third of the wider Bay of Plenty region's 620 member families.
"Rotorua is a really concentrated area," Bundle said.
Meth was the "biggest driver of complete family breakdown" they saw.
"Then you look at the co-morbid factors; neglect, domestic violence, crime, and mental illness."
She said grandparents - many of whom were living off superannuation - often ended up in poverty while trying to provide a stable upbringing for their grandchildren.
The latest Trade Me Rental Price Index showed the median weekly rent in the Bay of Plenty was $520, or $1040 a fortnight.
The latest Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment rental bond data showed the mean weekly rent in Rotorua was $406, or $812 a fortnight.
Superannuation is $847.66 a fortnight for someone who lives alone or with a dependent child, $782.44 for those who live with someone who is not a dependent child, and $652.04 for each person in a couple.
Grey Power Rotorua president Miriam Ruberl said the cost of rentals was pushing seniors out of homes, with basic rentals - one room or a one-bedroom unit - often costing over half of the superannuation of a single person.
"There are lots of people in that situation."
She said there was an expectation in New Zealand retired people should own their home mortgage-free, but she said was not the case for many.
"You feel like a failure if you don't own your own house."
While the pandemic had highlighted the issue, she said it was something that has been getting worse for a while with the primary impact being the cost of rentals.
Ruberl said many were housesitting to keep a roof over their heads, but this was less of an option as international travel was restricted.
Tauranga gerontologist Carole Gordon said there was "a lot of silence" around the issue of homelessness in older people.
"Housing poverty and housing stress amongst elderly people is very hidden. They don't speak out amongst themselves about it."
The Rotorua Lakes Council provides 152 housing units for the elderly in Ngongotaha, Fenton Park, Glenholme, and Westbrook.
As well as needing to be retired from full-time work, applicants need to have less than $25,000 for a single and $45,000 for a couple to qualify.