Native Affairs Summer Series – Crusaders for the homeless

During the winter Te Puea Mārae in Mangere opened its doors to anyone, of any ethnicity who is homeless. Then at night, a group of Māori wardens and volunteers head out of Te Puea Marae to hit the streets and help anyone who needs it. 

Everyone has a job to do at Te Puea Marae, from organisation to individual volunteers. The Māori wardens are put to work too. They patrol the grounds and take some of the donated goods out to those still living on the streets at night.

“This is for the whānau out there that haven’t heard of the marae to come, so we are going to take it to them and other food parcels and stuff, see if they need any blankets and let them know what we are up to and hopefully they will enjoy it.”

The Wardens have been working on the streets for years and are used to seeing poverty and desperation.

Māori Warden Co-ordinator Witeria Tawhiao says, “You got to harden up, you got to hold back the tears. I have a lot of tears for people out here on the streets and if I could I would quit my job and come here and work with these people on the streets, but unfortunately if I did that I'd probably end up homeless myself.”

Auckland's housing crisis has pushed more low-income families on to the streets. The wardens say the media coverage has helped them and also individuals who've been homeless for years.

“I really hope that government agencies wake up and stop blaming one and other and say this is your fault, this is your fault, you know. Take some ownership, take some ownership,” says Tawhiao.