Help for homeless pours in at marae

4:23 pm on 29 May 2016

A south Auckland marae that's opened its doors to the homeless has been inundated with support, but is calling for help to provide more beds.

Te Puea Marae

Te Puea Marae Photo: RNZ / Shannon Haunui-Thompson

Te Puea Marae in Mangere has established a support programme, alongside social agencies, to help those sleeping in cars and garages and on the street.

Since the programme started just last week, the marae has had a lot of support from an array of services.

Hurimoana Dennis, who chairs the marae board, said the support had been overwhelming, but work still needed to be done.

"We're looking quite wide and far in terms of what accommodation looks like. For a lot of people it looks like a house, but actually for the winter period, for this kaupapa perhaps, it could look like some spare bedrooms.

"We're calling on universities, colleges and others - if you' ve got spare dormitories and hostels available."

Half of the 18 whānau who had engaged with the programme now have some form of accommodation, he said, and are still being supported by the marae.

Mr Dennis said work to house the remaining whānau was under way. The marae was still trying to find a van and accommodation for one of the whānau - a mother and her 10 children, but while they wait, they are part of the mahi as well.

"The good thing about those whānau who we haven't been able to place [is they] have been helping out at the marae, cooking, cleaning, receiving goods and packing them for whānau who have been placed."

Ideally he did not want people to stay for extended periods of time, he said.

"We don't have them at the marae for long, we want the turnover to be very short, we do that respectfully. They still have whakapapa and mana as well, and we are managing all of those things as we go."

He said the marae was still looking for volunteers to help with cooking kai and sorting out logistics with donations, and for qualified social workers who could do assessments.

Mr Dennis said a volunteer roster would start next week, and the marae was also calling for help with setting up an 0800 number.

He said currently they were using their own phones and could not keep up with the demand.

When asked whether he expected such a response from the community, Mr Dennis said he was just doing what his tūpuna would have.

"To be fair, no I didn't. Look, for us, all we are doing is what our whaea Te Puea Herangi would have been expecting us to do.

"We are trying to help agencies get out of crisis mode and into manageable mode, we are not going to be the agency to fix everything.

"But through winter time we think people can't be living in cars and under bridges and carports, this is New Zealand 2016, I mean, come on."

The programme will welcome and support whānau who have nowhere to live during the winter months.

The marae is open for donations and support from 8am to 7pm. Their Facebook page has up-to-date information about what is happening at the marae and the services and support they are after.