The shortage of temporary shelter for Whanganui people without secure housing during the level 4 lockdown has prompted community agencies to find alternative means of support.
Two community meetings held pre-lockdown sought ideas for supporting
the city's homeless, but in the meantime the Anzac Parade freedom camping site in Whanganui East has been established as a temporary site for the most vulnerable until lockdown is lifted.
Koha Shed manager Sherron Sunnex said a horse float had been towed to the site and would serve as a hub where people could charge phones and receive support from visiting support agencies and health workers.
"Half of the float will be used as overnight accommodation for a volunteer who will connect with people staying in vans and cars to find out what support they need."
Sunnex said people staying at the site had been able to access showers at the Civil Defence Centre at Whanganui Girls' College.
Kiritahi Firmin, of the Kimiora Trust, took a pop-up caravan to the site on Thursday and has been delivering hot meals to the hub.
"We have a contract to make school lunches so our team is well-versed in preparing nourishing kai," she said.
"The Koha Shed provided mushrooms and cream so we made a nice hot soup and baked rewana paraoa for our homeless whānau."
Firmin said it was disappointing that she had been asked not to deliver any more hot food to the site as it "doesn't meet the requirements of level 4 protocols".
"I hope that we can resume the service because we are well equipped for it and while we are not able to do school lunches, we can do this instead."
Sunnex said there was a need to adhere to the Covid-19 restrictions on supplying cooked food.
"There was also the cost - we were supplying the ingredients," she said.
"It was also hard to know how many people would want the meals each day, as some preferred to make their own.
"We hope to work something out as the levels go down because it's so good of Kiritahi to offer that service."
Whanganui People's Centre manager Sharon Semple said while she had worked with Ministry of Social Development (MSD) staff to find temporary accommodation for clients, there simply wasn't enough available.
"Last year we were able to find places during level 4 but it just isn't there this time," Semple said.
The People's Centre has been on call to support clients and connect with MSD staff during the lockdown.
Community House Whanganui manager Shelley Loader said a fantastic job was being done to support people who had nowhere else to go during this lockdown.
"We have a small number of clients who remain homeless and are having difficulty accessing services," Loader said.
"Issues such as being unable to charge their phones, having no masks to access supermarkets, being unable to purchase hot takeaway meals is very hard and the Koha Shed has done a fantastic job in that respect."
Loader said support agencies that normally operated from Community House were keeping in touch with clients as much as possible while adhering to Covid-19 protocols.
"Our member organisations have coped with the abrupt level change really well," she said.
"We have a Covid-19 policy and safety plan in place and everyone knew what they were doing this time around."
Loader said the Community House building was closed to the public and would remain closed at level 3.
"We have a mix of organisations who are either unable to work during lockdown, working from home and supporting clients remotely, or essential services organisations working remotely from home and accessing the building when required."
Meanwhile, the results of two community meetings on homelessness held in July and early August have been collated and circulated.
Loader said the meetings generated an encouraging number of great ideas and information about initiatives already in motion, and the next phase would be the establishment of a steering group and recruitment of volunteers to help get projects off the ground.
"We are asking everyone to respond by Friday, September 3, and the aim is to establish the steering group the following week."
Loader said although homeless people invited to the meetings declined to attend, they had submitted suggestions that had been included in the lists of ideas and actions.