Waka of Caring, Lifewise strive to continue services through Lockdown

updated By Te Ao - Māori News

A South Auckland community service 'Waka of Caring'  that was told to close its doors during Lockdown is now classified as an essential service through the MSD.

Debbie Munroe, affectionately known as Whaea Debz, has dedicated the past seven years to the vulnerable.  She was hoping her emergency application to remain open would be endorsed to support a growing social service demand.

Donations line her shop walls and floors, food unable to be shared with those in need. 

Whaea Debz says, "About 10 people come in here for a cry and a talk. We do the 2m thing, I sit and listen and reassure them we are not going to shut down, not just for the kai but if anyone needs to talk." 

But last night, despite her efforts for an emergency community licence, she was told by Police to shut down. 

"I know from seven in the morning we are going to have people wanting some breakfast our homeless guys usually turn up midnight or 1am for a hot kai, coffee or soup. I cannot do it, I refuse to shut shop," she says.

Her pleas to remain open follow the PM's announcement of a $27m financial package to support social needs during lock-down.

Already services like Lifewise are feeling the strain of the demand. 

Manager Practice & Development, Zoe Truell says, "We support families who are under stress with child protection issues we are working with elderly across Auckland to providing home help with people with disabilities. We have youth housing and Housing First. It's really full-on for us."

For the past few days, Lifewise have been locating and supporting the homeless into motels during the lock-down, the process requires robust health protocols. She says many of the homeless were unaware of the national isolation. 

"It's a big change for people who are living on the streets and then be put in a house where they are isolated. On the streets, everyone works as a community, as street whānau."

The Lifewise team will continue making trips across Auckland to locate homeless and rough sleepers and placing them into suitable accommodation.