Whangārei people sleeping under bridges or in their cars now have somewhere to go for a wash, a cuppa, companionship and help.
In the daytime, that is.
The city's first centre for the homeless opened amid celebrations this morning in what used to be Whangārei's Army Drill Hall.
The drab but sound old building has been transformed over the past three months by the work of community and church groups, well-wishers and the homeless themselves into a place where all those in need will be welcome.
Crowds poured into the centre this morning after a naming ceremony.
"He aha te ingoa o tenei whare?" (What is the name of this building?) kaumātua and master carver Te Warihi Hetaraka called to the crowd as workers hauled a tarpaulin from the roof to unveil the sign.
"Te Ruruhau o Nga Ringa Ringa Tuwhera!" came the response. The place of Open Arms.
In the Māori tradition the crowd filed through each room in turn, touching the walls on their right to bless the space.
The ceremony was supposed to be quiet but guests couldn't help exclaiming and admiring the transformation.
The many rooms in the building are bright with white paint; art works hang on the walls, and there's a place for everything a homeless person might need.
There's a room with neatly-sorted used clothes and bedding; a laundry, men's and women's bathrooms, clinics for visiting foctors and social workers; a well-equipped kitchen and a huge dining and meeting room.
The two women at the heart of the project, Carrie Kake and Carol Peters were smiling.
Mrs Kake and her husband Ihaia, both devout Christians, have been taking homeless people into their own home for decades.
Despite her heart condition Ms Kake has been at the centre every day for weeks, providing cups of tea and sandwiches for the volunteers, the tradies and homeless helpers.
And her quiet persistence has paid off.
"It's a great day," she said quietly.
Project organiser Carol Peters, who runs Whangārei's 155 Community House, said public support for the homeless centre had been tremendous.
Funding has come mainly from the Ministry of Social Development, and most of the labour and equipment had been donated.
But there was been a last minute blow to the budget, Dr Peters said.
"It turned out unexpectedly that we needed to upgrade the fire [protection] system. It needed to be a Level 4 system which cost $9400 which was an exorbitant amount for us to have to find," she said.
But she was optimistic the money would be found, one way or another. That attitude has worked well so far for the centre orgnaisers.
Reverend Mary Nicholas from St John's Anglican Church says the idea of homelessness upsets people.
"People have found this is a project where they can do something for others, even in the smallest way," she said.
As recently as 2001, the old army hall built in 1901 served as a training centre for the defence forces, including the Territorials.
Major Roberta Wilkinson, the Northland commander of that time, was at the opening ceremony to see the building reborn.
"We had some marvellous times here," she said.
"It was a real focal point in the community, and we used to get local business people, and ex-service people dropping in all the time for a chat and a coffee.
"Our Auckland and Northland personnel are absolutely thrilled to see Open Arms here, and we hope they get as much fun and joy and comradeship out of it as we did."
Carol Peters says although winter is over, Whangārei's homeless numbers are still growing and in the lead-up to today's opening she's seen some desperate cases.
"They sleep under the bridges not far from here. A woman came in the other day, an elderly woman and she'd been unable to get a space under the bridge, because there were 21 people there and no room for her to sit down," Dr Peters said.
It would be part of Open Arms' mission to help people in that situation find a roof over their head, she said.
"But it's not just for the homeless. Anyone old or young who feels alone, in need of a chat or company, is welcome here," she said.