Prisoner reintegration group struggling

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

John Kemana and Marina Whiu run a boarding house. It's currently being used for released prisoners who are being reintegrated into the community. But the Hamilton pair say they are stretched for resources.

Jay Elliot says he's been in and out of jail for the last 10 years and is back in this home looking for another chance to live in his community. 

“I found that I was running around on the streets in the rain there for about 5 weeks, trying to find me housing, and Work and Income didn't help me at all.  So I moved in here.”

But it's been a struggle to keep Te Pō Ki Te Ao Mārama afloat and look after residents like Jay.

This comes after numerous failed attempts to apply for funding.

Ms. Whiu says, “We get their rent which covers the mortgage and the rates, and that's about it. We've worked it out to about $6,100.00 that should cover that for the month.”

Te Pō Ki Te Ao Mārama is run by business partners John Kemara and Marina Whiu, who are helping released prisoners reintegrate into the community.

Mr. Kemara says, “When they come here we take them down to Work and Income, and that's the first introduction to the community, to life and get that established.”

Te Pō Ki Te Ao became a charitable trust in 2010. Since then, they have helped 96 released prisoners, 69 of whom have not re-offended. Some were referred to them by Corrections.

“I had an association with Corrections and their key workers, and they have about 30 guys// they can't spend time with them watching them re-integrate into the community, whereas my business partner and my friends we actually work with them and slowly but surely they reintegrate into the community,” says Kemara.

John and Marina will look to establish the home for released prisoners with the backing of the Corrections Department.