Auckland church struggles with cost of housing homeless

From Checkpoint, 5:41 pm on 3 October 2017

An Auckland church which has given up its offices to provide emergency housing says it needs around $160,000 to upgrade its facilities so it can continue to do so.

Faith Family Baptist Church in Panmure is providing accommodation to 15 people but said it was turning away more each week because it has run out of space.

The small church only has a congregation of about 25 people but is using its limited space to house people who would otherwise be on the street.

The offices have been transformed into small rooms, with temporary partitions in place to give some privacy. 

Men sleep in one area and women are across the carpark in another building. 

The church also rents two houses across the road to accommodate two more families.

Church pastor Carla Perese, Ngāti Paoa, said over the past week they had turned away two mothers and their daughters, as well as a husband and wife and their child because there was no room for them. 

Family Faith Baptist Church community centre in Panmure.

Family Faith Baptist Church community centre in Panmure needs roofing and plumbing work done.  Photo: RNZ / Nita Blake-Persen

"It's heartbreaking, having to say we can't," Ms Perese said.

Her parents were pastors at the church before her, and have been helping the homeless for more than 10 years, but she said over the past couple of years demand for accommodation had ramped up. 

It now offered a 13-week programme to those who were staying at the church which aimed to help them get back on their feet.

The programme involves numeracy and literacy classes from 9am to 1pm every day, as well as budgeting advice and assistance with addiction and health issues.

People wanting to stay did not have to join the congregation, but there was a zero tolerance policy towards alcohol, drugs and violence.

Ms Perese said people from all backgrounds and cultures have stayed at the church, including some who were bailed there.

The cost for residents to stay at the church was $200 a week, which covered board, power and water.

That cost was $100 a week until recently, but with power bills hitting $3000 a month the church had to increase it.

Food was not included, but Ms Perese said they received some donations from food rescue organisation KiwiHarvest and cooked communally to save on costs.

Joel Love stayed at the church with his wife and child last year, and took part in the programme.

He said the church provided mentoring and a place to learn behviours to ensure they would not fall back into the same situation. Mr Love now works at the church as a mentor and leader.

"It's not just emergency housing, it's also about empowering people."

Numeracy and literacy classes.

Numeracy and literacy classes at the church. Photo: RNZ / Nita Blake-Persen

Ms Perese said many of their residents had exhausted all of their options before arriving at the church.

The church is currently working to renovate its facilities to accommodate more people - currently there is just one shower for all the residents and limited kitchen facilities.

She said the roof needed replacing, plumbing work needed to be done and they wanted to reconfigure some of the church facilities so more people could stay.

"MSD are trying to help us as much as they can and we've got people working with us at the moment to help us with funding proposals.

"But we want to be able to sustain this ourselves, you know, not having to rely on government funding or anything like that. But at the moment we do need help with that to get our building up to compliance and things like that."

Mr Love said he hoped the work of Faith Family would inspire other churches and people in the community to do all they could to help those in need.

"This place has been doing it a lot longer than others but have never really asked for help but I think now is the time for us to ask for help.

"The need is great."