Rotorua's needy brought to the forefront on World Homeless Day

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

According to Rotorua's Lifewise report, the number of rough sleepers in the city has more than doubled over the last three years. The mental well-being and addictions service is utilising World Homeless Day to raise awareness of the issue in their community.

Rodney Hepi is grateful to have a place to call home. Two months ago on-going drug addiction had him on the streets.

“I had nowhere to go,” said Hepi. “Lifewise was the last place that anyone would take me.”

Lifewise's Homeless Action Plan shows around 30 individuals were sleeping rough around the CBD. However the numbers have increased in the last four years.

“We're now experiencing a mass of different tiers of rough sleepers and that could look like families that are experiencing homeless that are sleeping in cars,” says Haehaetu Barret, Service Manager.

“We're probably looking at a good 50 to 60 families.”

The 2014 report also showed homelessness was caused by a number of factors.

“A lot of our people who were experiencing rough sleeping were also experiencing mental health and addictions,” said Barrett.

He says, “We've been able to support people to come straight in from rough sleeping and put them into treatment.”

“Synthetics are one of the main ones,” said Hepi. “That's pretty nasty. People get hooked on that and then they just get lost.”  

Today Rotorua's needy have been brought to the forefront to better understand their plight and help.

“Services who help the homeless have come together,” said Waka Whakamua service spokesperson, Israel Hawkins.

“Because there are many people who are providing help in Rotorua. But they don't know what each one is doing.”

Rotorua's homeless agencies plan to better work together for the community.