Accommodation secured for 50 homeless in Te Tai Tokerau

By Jessica Tyson

Fifty people who faced the first weeks of lockdown surviving without shelter in Northland have been connected with accommodation as part of a nationwide effort to ensure all New Zealanders are as safe as possible.

One Double Five Community House CEO Liz Cassidy-Nelson says the accommodation will be available for up to three months at four motels across the region.

“This relief is temporary but we want to be part of the solution, which is why we’re working to find transitional housing for these people once the lockdown ends.”

She says the lockdown has become particularly testing for Tai Tokerau’s homeless.

“They were in survival mode, living in inhabitable conditions but doing their best to make it a home,” she says.

Until now, those experiencing homelessness relied on the 155 Open Arms Day Centre in Whangārei to meet their basic necessities; food, showers and clothes-washing facilities. 

News of the accommodation was received with relief and joy by the new guests, says Cassidy-Nelson.

“They are relieved to have somewhere safe to sleep at night, and so appreciative knowing their Government cares about them.”

She says one hadn’t sat or slept on a bed for six months, another 78-year-old who was living in a tent was completely lost for words and offered her a hug “if he could”.

Finding shelter for the country’s homeless has been an ongoing, multi-organisational effort between housing providers, iwi and Māori organisations, local government and social services.

As of Thursday, 962 motel units nationwide had been secured and made available, with 496 units already accommodating homeless and vulnerable people.

In Whangarei, the effort involved Kāinga Pūmanawa, the collective of 155, Ngāti Hine Health Trust Kāhui Tū Kaha.

Cassidy-Nelson says there is still a lot of work to be done beyond the lockdown period and the community house will continue to place rough sleepers into accommodation, and provide food where they can.