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Roofs nearly over ‘extreme homeless’ heads

After an 18-month-long process, homeless advocate and refuge organiser Lyn Tankersley will be hugely relieved when Masterton’s Kim’s Way night shelter opens.

“I will cry,” she said.

“They give big, huge hugs, and they love me, and I love them, I’ve known them for a long time.”

Tankersley has observed an increased number of what she called ‘extreme homeless’ in the region over the past couple of months.

“These are the ones who are sleeping really rough out in the open, under the bridges, in tents.”

“It’s really, really sad.”

She said there are about of about 15-20 in Masterton and she has talked to many of them.

“Most of the street people say that they can’t wait until it opens.

Tankersley, who worked at Masterton Foodbank for nearly 20 years, said that the refuge may open as soon as April this year.

The shelter based on Bannister Street will run seven days a week for people to stay overnight free of charge.

Doors will be open from about 6pm to 8am with an evening meal, a bed to sleep in, and breakfast provided.

There is space for 12 people in the main hall, with three cabins in the back section reserved for females, and lockers to store personal belongings.

A three-month trial period will be in place, where the shelter will have paid security every night.

“We want them to know that they are safe here,” Tankersley said.

“We also want troublemakers to know that they are not welcome here.”

Rules will be in place at the shelter regarding drugs and violence, but alcohol will be acceptable due practical reasons.

“A lot of the street people are alcoholics – if you are going to say no alcohol, they won’t come,” she said.

Volunteers will have a safe room in the building if anything happens and assistance from police – who are supportive of the shelter – is close at hand, given the police station is only 20 metres away.

Tankersley said a $50,000 grant for building materials was given by the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board and $30,000 for wages will be paid to refuge security staff.

She said the shelter will be run by a volunteer team interested in helping those less fortunate than themselves.

Many who currently volunteer their time juggle full time work commitments, like Cameron Construction Wairarapa owner Mason Cameron, Blaire Smith of ‘The Brickery’, and Masterton District councillor Stella Lennox.

Food will come from Wairarapa Community Centre’s Kitchen Programme, as well as some churches.

The shelter was planned to open last winter, but setbacks like needing an upgrade on the building’s fire engineering and protection meant the project is ongoing.

Tankersley tentatively said the refuge will be fully operational by April-July 2024.

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