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Overnight homeless shelter planned

An overnight refuge in Masterton is on the horizon, with the aim to provide a warm, safe space for those experiencing extreme homelessness.
Next month will see the official launch of Kim’s Way, a shelter for vulnerable people who have nowhere to go to escape the elements.
Masterton resident Lyn Tankersley said the emergency accommodation, named after the “incredible” Kim McKinley, would fill a currently unmet need for the 10-15 people sleeping rough.
“It’s unconditional care for these people, especially over winter when it’s horrendous being out on the street.”
Championing the shelter under the umbrella of Te Awhina Cameron Community House Trust, was a three-person committee including Tankersley, Masterton councillor Stella Lennox, and former Masterton Mayor Bob Francis.
Francis said after a number of briefings he was convinced there was a real need.
“We shouldn’t discount the work that is going on by community groups and churches but nothing is specifically aimed at people sleeping under bridges and other inappropriate places.”
St Matthew’s Church currently provides shelter and meals three days a week, while Project Manaaki on Elizabeth St offers long-term transitional accommodation, assisting people to live on their own.
Nationwide the number of people experiencing housing distress is increasing year-on-year.
The Ministry of Social Development recorded 26,664 applicants on the Housing Register as of June 30, an increase of 8.9 per cent from the previous year.
In Wairarapa, there were 198 registered, all of whom were categorised as priority A: considered high risk with a severe and persistent need to be addressed immediately.
Francis said the homeless crisis in the region had worsened over the past few years.
“This is unprecedented really. In some ways, it is incredibly sad and almost an indictment on the way we live.
“That is why I’m supporting this initiative because it’s unacceptable that we have people living in these conditions.”
The initiative would be basic, Tankersley said, and founded on the premise of “no questions asked”.
“It will open at 6-7pm, they will come and get a hot meal, likely provided by the Wairarapa Community Kitchen, a bed [marae-style], and a basic breakfast.”
She said the shelter, which is currently undergoing resource consent, would be staffed exclusively by volunteers for the first few months.
“The landlord is giving us the property rent-free, so we just need to find power and pay rates and insurance.
“We are running this on a shoestring.”
Lennox said speaking with Tankersley in the depths of winter was the trigger to get the ball rolling.
“She had a real concern, and I said ‘we can do this, we can make something happen. It doesn’t need to be difficult.’”
Lennox said the current timeframe for the opening was early next year.
Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell said the town was not immune to the social issues facing New Zealand and welcomed housing options for people experiencing homelessness. He said Kainga Ora’s recent return to the region was a positive development.
Wairarapa police were also on board.
Acting Area Commander Detective Inspector Darin Thompson said the overnight refuge was a positive project in the community and said rough sleeping, begging or being homeless, were not criminal offences.

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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