When a person has no place to live, they cannot be expected to manage their lives.
That's according to Whanganui People's Centre manager Sharon Semple who every week works with around 30 people needing support with benefit, work, legal or housing issues.
"People can have debt problems, addiction, mental health or legal issues and it is really difficult to sort out any of those when they don't have a place to live," Semple said.
"I really notice the change in people when they are housed.
"It's like their whole demeanour lifts and they have energy to address their other concerns."
Semple has been in her role for almost two years since taking over from the late Gary Reid who founded the People's Centre in 1999.
Reid had been unemployed and experienced hardship after losing his job at Hannah's shoe factory in Whanganui.
He wanted to provide an advocacy service for people dealing with the social welfare agency now known as the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).
After 20 years of working with the agency, Reid had formed strong co-operative relationships with MSD staff.
Semple had only been working at the People's Centre for a few weeks when Reid died of lung cancer in May 2018.
MSD community liaison adviser Gail Bennett and a team of Whanganui staff went to meet her.
"She barely had her feet under the desk when we went to talk to her," Bennett said.
"We had a very good relationship with Gary who was a truly devoted advocate but we have been building stronger partnerships with community agencies and we wanted to make sure we had that with Sharon."
A network of 12 to 15 Whanganui community support agencies meets regularly with MSD staff and their clients.
"It is very important to liaise with those people working at the coal face because we don't see what they see," Bennett said.
Maree O'Leary is the regional contracts manager with MSD for the Whanganui and Taranaki region.
"We have just arranged a new contract with the Whanganui People's Centre which will enable Sharon to hire another worker or two," O'Leary said.
"She can employ one full-time or two part-time workers."
O'Leary said Semple's role is pivotal as she is often the first point of contact for people who need support from multiple agencies.
"To really help someone, you have to address every issue," Semple said.
"And to do that you need to establish trust and that can take some time.
"Three women I have been working with have been referred to rehabilitation programmes recently and they each came to the realisation that was the right next move for them."
Semple said the demand for affordable rental housing still exceeds the supply in Whanganui and it is disappointing that some families she works with are having to vacate rental properties.
"That is overwhelming for a woman who has suffered domestic abuse, been left with all the debt and still has to care for her children.
"It would be really good if we can reach out to private landlords and convince them to give people a chance because people can end up with black marks against their names
through no fault of their own."
Some of Semple's clients are discriminated against because they are homeless, and have previous convictions or mental health issues.
"Everyone deserves a second chance and we can work with people to make sure they are meeting their tenancy obligations."
In August last year, Semple told the Whanganui District Council Housing Strategy meeting that 748 clients had approached the People's Centre for housing help during the year which amounted to three to four inquiries a day.
She has investigated tiny house options for her clients and suggested the council could assist in by making the "red tape" aspect of construction easier and quicker for builders.