1 Jun 2016

Social workers go to marae for help

4:37 pm on 1 June 2016

Social agencies desperate to help their clients have joined the queues of people turning up at a south Auckland marae that opened its doors to the homeless.

Kaanga Skipper, a direct descendant of Te Puea Herangi (L) and Hurimoana Dennis, chair of Te Puea Marae.

Kaanga Skipper, a direct descendant of Te Puea Herangi (L) and Hurimoana Dennis, chair of Te Puea Marae. Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

Te Puea Marae in Mangere started taking in the homeless last week and so far has found homes for four of the 45 families who have sought help.

Colleen Fakalogotoa, chief executive of Family Start Manukau, said her workers went to the marae today because there was no emergency accommodation available.

"They would have gone there because the other places were full or they wouldn't have been able to find accommodation available in any of the usual places that they go to."

The marae is looking for storage space as donations continue to flood in.

The marae is looking for storage space as donations continue to flood in. Photo: RNZ/ Tom Furley

Ms Fakalogotoa said housing has been tight for a very long time.

"We all have all the phone numbers for the emergency housing places in the diary, you try them all each time you have a new family that has a housing issue. It's a matter of going through your list until you find somewhere."

Ms Fakalogotoa said Family Start - which receives government funding - will use "any service that is working for families".

This is something Te Puea Marae and its chair, Hurimoana Dennis, are now realising as people come to them needing help.

"If you've got agencies dropping off individuals here, then that's gone way past the last point of call, but the common theme for people coming here is no place to go - nowhere."

MPs helped out at weekend

Green Party MP Marama Davidson and Labour's Peeni Henare, the MP for Tamaki Makaurau, both worked at Te Puea marae over the weekend.

Ms Davidson said people had told her that the marae is doing what Whanau Ora and other government agencies are supposed to be doing.

"It does make me want to review where are those wraparound services are at."

Mr Henare said the marae being approached for help by social services was "bittersweet".

"It speaks to the success of what they're doing there, but it also is a slap in the face because it highlights the deficiencies in the contracting mechanisms to provide social outcomes by government agencies."

New Green party  MP, Marama Davidson, after she was sworn into Parliament today.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mr Henare said he had spoken to businesses in the hope of getting donations to help the marae and said Mitre 10 had "come on board with freezers".

Flick Electric has cleared the marae's power bill for the next three months and they hope Spark will give them help with IT and an 0800 number.

Ms Davidson said what the marae is doing is showing up the government's failure to act on the country's housing crisis. She said social services had also been stretched, and someone had to do something.

Donations pour in

All day Monday there was a steady stream of people dropping off donations and volunteering their help.

Māori wardens, also volunteers, checked people in and assigned duties.

People drop off donations at Te Puea Marae.

People drop off donations at Te Puea Marae. Photo: RNZ/ Tom Furley

Mr Dennis said whanau from different ethnic groups and of varying sizes are asking for help.

"Families of nine, families of 10, young mums on their own with their kids, we've got a 14-day-old baby here and individuals as well. So our team of volunteer social workers is working very hard and we really need some help in that area."

Te Puni Kokiri gives $10,000 grant

The marae has been given $10,000 from Te Puni Kokiri, but Mr Dennis said they really need the government to clear the red tape so they can process and house people more quickly.

"Give them a whare, let them settle and then all the admin and the paper work that needs to be done, which is very important, can be done."

But he said what is happening now is that the paperwork all needs to be done up front.

And the marae itself needs help.

The marae has also been overwhelmed with donations and is looking for warehouse space nearby to manage the volume of goods and be able to distribute them more effectively.

Running out of room

"We need some Portacoms, for temporary accommodation, but mainly office space, so our assessment teams can interview more people at one time - and we need storage space."

Te Puea Marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis

Te Puea Marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis Photo: RNZ/ Tom Furley

Mr Dennis said at night the Māori wardens have been taking hot meals and care packages, made up from donations, to families they know are still sleeping in their cars who are too shy to come to the marae.

Mr Dennis said he also wants people to know that families they are able to house will continue to get food and groceries from them for as long as they need it.

He said they are doing the best they can but still need offers of temporary accommodation.

A hui is being held at the marae on Wednesday night for anyone who may be able to help.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs