30 Sep 2018

Women-only shelter for Auckland's homeless deemed a success

10:51 am on 30 September 2018

The organisers of a temporary women-only night shelter in Auckland have hailed the project as successful.

Auckland City Mission

Auckland City Mission Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The Auckland City Mission's 10-bed shelter - Te Whare Manaaki Wāhine - opened in July and has just closed, while the Hobson Street building is redeveloped.

The 10-week programme provided social support for women and a space to rest, eat and wash.

The mission's social services manager Helen Robinson said after the first week there were 8 to 10 women staying every night.

"The incredible joy, or satisfaction at being able to provide this place, is that women had a place to come that was safe, where they could have a really good sleep, where they could eat together, where they could have a chance to talk to social workers."

The distressing level of poverty, trauma and exposure to physical and sexual violence was the story of every woman who came through the door, she said.

The types of conversations and progress made for some women while at the shelter was remarkable, Ms Robinson said.

"Part of that really was the safety of that place - so being able to provide a service for women, by women, meant that every woman knew they were welcome and safe."

Organisers witnessed an enormous change in those using the service within a matter of days.

"It was like watching a flower unfurl.

"You were seeing women rested, who had clean clothes, and they began to feel like they had some dignity and self-respect."

Some women have since gone into more permanent accommodation or are seeking support for drug and alcohol issues.

Ms Robinson was convinced that a dedicated women-only space was needed in Auckland.

"My promise to every one of the women ...is that I would do everything in my power to see services continue that are dedicated to women."

No space has been allocated within the new development for this.

But Ms Robinson said it would be important to keep a women-only space distinct from the main site but such a project still required funding.