10 Jun 2016

Message of hope at Te Puea Marae

8:43 pm on 10 June 2016

The government has struck a deal behind closed doors to support Te Puea Marae, which is providing shelter to homeless families in Auckland.

After a meeting with the marae's chairman, Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett's office said the ministry would provide "logistical assistance" but did not detail what that would mean.

Watch: Checkpoint's John Campbell talks to volunteers at the marae

The marae, in Mangere Bridge, off the motorway near the airport, opened its doors 15 days ago to people who had nowhere else to go.

Dozens of families have since made it their temporary home, with at least 54 families having sought shelter there. Many have since found new homes.

One volunteer said those who had come to the marae included families who had been staying in cars with children as young as two weeks old.

They said one family of eight had been sleeping in a car and a van and moving to stay in a different place every night for their safety.

"It's tough," another volunteer said.

Volunteers sorting clothes at Te Puea Marae

Donation have been pouring in, with many in the community also donating their time as volunteers. Photo: RNZ

"We've got families, we've got single people, they've all got the same underlying story that all they wanted is to have a safe home. A safe home so that they can breathe."

Those families were now benefitting from the generosity of volunteers - and donations of food, bedding and clothing from the community.

Rooms in the marae were full of donated goods, pouring in from as far as the United States.

Ms Bennett today met the marae's chairman, Hurimoana Dennis, at an Auckland cafe.

In a statement, her office said the ministry would provide more "logistical assistance" to the marae but would not specify what it would be.

Volunteers sorting food at Te Puea Marae

Two volunteers stand in a room filled with donated food. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

She said the marae had already received about $10,000 through Te Puni Kokiri.

Mr Dennis said the minister told him at this morning's meeting that officials would work in partnership with the marae.

She told him they would help the marae's Manaaki Tangata programme address the issue of homelessness in Auckland, and fast-track the families the marae was helping into suitable, affordable accommodation, he said.

"It was a very, very productive and valuable conversation to have ... the minister and her team have agreed to work in partnership with our marae."

Ms Bennett refused requests from Checkpoint for an interview on this subject.

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