30 Aug 2017

Help us help homeless: Te Puea Marae's plea to Auckland businesses

8:59 am on 30 August 2017

A South Auckland marae that opened its doors to the homeless is seeking private sector support to ensure it can continue to provide social services.

Hurimoana Dennis farwells B and her family at Te Puea Marae. 24 June 2016.

Te Puea Marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis: "We have a model here that works." Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Te Puea Marae, which offers temporary accommodation for 25 people, has met with some of the country's biggest companies to see how they could collaborate.

The Mangere marae opened its doors to homeless whānau last winter and did it again this year. There are currently 22 people who call it home.

Te Puea Marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis said it was now seeking support from organisations and businesses in the private sector to help run its services.

"We said to the private sector, look, we have a model here that works, we have a model that's indigenous to us here on the marae and to Māori people.

"We would like to remain the front door to this social service, to this social service provision."

The marae wanted to form meaningful relationships with businesses, he said.

"We'd like to sign up on an MOU [memorandum of understanding] with them or an accord or something that is formal, because we want this to be more than just a lovely conversation."

Marae resource manager John Kukutai said a woman who was re-housed after seeking shelter at Te Puea was among those who spoke at last week's meeting.

"She got up and spoke of her children and achieving a lot more because they're in a house."

Mr Kukutai said it was good to hear about the training opportunities that the private sector could offer. However, he said the problem of homelessness was only becoming worse and the marae was dealing with just a small part of the problem

The marae's housing co-ordinator, Martha Ewe, already works with the private housing sector to re-home whānau.

Houses had become hard to come by, compared to this time last year, she said.

Ms Ewe was excited by the number of organisations showing an interest in working with the marae's manaaki tangata programme, she said.

"Some of them walked out, but we could see the ones who had their hearts here with us as well and those are big companies, big names."

Fletcher Building representative Sharon Spence, who was at the meeting, said there would be follow-up meetings to see how the different organisations could work with the marae.

"I think there was a very strong feeling that between us we could do a number of things to support people at Te Puea Marae."

Mr Dennis said, with its current levels of support, Te Puea Marae would remain open to homeless whānau until January 2018.

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