A givealittle page has been opened by the Tauranga Moana Nightshelter to help raise $100,000 to build ten studio apartments on the Elizabeth Street site.
The transitional apartments provide independence for men at the shelter while they are still able to access the shelter's support. The units will also free up 10 beds within the shelter.
The nightshelter must raise $100,000.00 to kick start the project which has a total build cost of $410,000.00. The remaining $310,000.00 required will be sought through application to BayTrust for a low interest loan.
Shelter manager Annamarie Angus also asked Tauranga city Council for the $100,000 when she spoke to the council Community and Culture Committee earlier this week.
“We are acutely aware that this initiative needs to happen now. Members of our community who are vulnerable are sleeping on the street and we want to help them,” says Annamarie.
While the nightshelter is successful, and is rehabilitating about 45 men off the streets every year, it is missing out on government support.
“We were excited to learn that Government is allocating millions of dollars across the country to address the growing numbers of homeless people and to provide housing,” says Annamarie.
They thought they would be included in the initiative, but no.
“Like our clients, TMNT is not seen as a priority and does not fit any pre-determined criteria.”
The shelter is at capacity and there are reports of more than 50 rough sleepers in Tauranga.
“We spend our day working tirelessly on the front line, the work is intensive and never ending. We do not have the resourcing or time to continually jump through hoops to raise funds only to find we don't meet criteria,” says Annamarie.
The reality is government local and central, the ministries; health, justice and social must support the shelter and its services to continue achieving the proven outcomes for its complex group.
“We are tired and frustrated from being directed to, and navigating, complex application processes to gain contracts only to be rebuffed, while at the same time answering the phones to those same government departments and ministries referring these hard to reach people to our doors.”
The homeless men who end up on the streets are there because of system failures. She used a client she named Steve as an example.
Having suffered a head injury and loss of movement in his arm, Steve was receiving ACC payments which sustained him and his young family for a time. Steve also suffered from depression from the loss of work and mobility.
ACC payments ceased and he was transferred to a work and income job seeker benefit. The head injury, loss of movement in his arm and depression resulted in Steve being unable to meet his obligations with the benefit type and it was cancelled.
Steve couldn't pay rent, he lost his home his young family and lived on the streets for seven years. He took up drinking and drug taking and aligned himself with the street family.
He was known to the hospital emergency department, police, and work and income. He was assessed after arriving at the shelter in 2014 and found to have a cognitive disability from drinking alcohol, and he was approved for supported living payments.
He's now permanently housed in supported accommodation and reunited with his family.
“Steve's story highlights where our systems fail the most vulnerable people in our community,” says Annamarie. “It is clear that services are tasked with removing people from their caseloads, damn the consequences. The consequences for this man, as it is for many of our men, were dire and ultimately, significantly more costly in the long term.”
While every account is different, what is the same in every story is that in all cases these men have presented to services many times over the years, says Annamarie.
“The services failed them, they were hard to navigate, and they looked for reasons why this person did not meet their criteria. Services come with a mandate to address a particular area of concern. Our people's lives are in turmoil, every facet of their lives is an area of concern.”
The men the nightshelter deals with are those seen rough sleeping and begging on our Tauranga city streets. They are well known to the police, to Work and Income, to Emergency Department, to Mental Health and Addiction services to the courts and corrections.
“They bring with them unresolved trauma, mental health and addiction issues, criminal behaviours, phenomenal debt, and appalling tenancy histories,” says Annamarie. “They are the people who have burned many bridges, who are non-compliant and continue to be brought to the attention of the media, front line police officers, to the Council and to hospital services.”