2 Sep 2021

Napier businesses complain of behaviour and vandalism at outreach centre

6:46 am on 2 September 2021

The outreach centre for the homeless in Napier is stuck trying to find a home of its own.

Items left outside the outreach centre.

Items left outside the outreach centre. Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

It has been closed for some months and nearby businesses say the behaviour of those who still hang out nearby has become worse, even more so during lockdown.

Brad Betty has been a dentist by Clive Square in Napier for about 18 years.

His surgery is beside the outreach centre, leaving him "frustrated".

"Incredibly frustrated actually. We've had to put up with it for so long, cleaning faeces off our driveway, being broken into quite regularly. It's just not fair that we have to tolerate this sort of behaviour."

Napier does not have a night shelter, but the outreach centre provides food and services for rough sleepers.

Betty said over lockdown, when people were not supposed to be in public, the behaviour had not improved. In fact, it was worse.

"Absolutely worse, not last night but the night before there were at least five of them that urinated down our driveway."

He had written to the mayor, police and numerous others, but had seen no change.

"Every time we try to action something we have meetings with the council, with police, with concerned business owners around the place. We talk and nothing gets done."

The centre is causing stress for nearby businesses because of break-ins and vandalism.

The centre is causing stress for nearby businesses because of break-ins and vandalism. Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

Dallas and Doug Knight own the building on the other side of the outreach centre, and have so for 40 years.

Dallas Knight said over the last few years, the area had deteriorated.

"Over the last few months for example, we've had three break-ins to the building. There's been one that damaged the front door and windows and jemmied other doors, which required a lot of expensive repair."

She had been writing to authorities too.

"Everybody we have spoken to have been very sympathetic, but getting action from the sympathy has been a different issue."

Other businesses have sent photos of faeces on the side of the buildings to authorities, but have not seen any improvements.

Whatever it Takes Trust, (WIT) runs the outreach centre.

Its general manager Shirley Lammas said the centre, which is leased from owners Kāinga Ora, had been closed for three months because of staff shortages.

But it could open again soon.

"We are now in the process of liaising with Kāinga Ora again about coming in to do some repairs in there, and we're hoping to reopen the outreach towards the end of September."

The outreach centre is just across the road from Clive Square in central Napier.

The outreach centre is just across the road from Clive Square in central Napier. Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

Still, the city council commissioned a report to find alternative sites, but nowhere better had been found.

Lammas said homelessness was a community problem, so it needed a community solution.

"WIT has just stepped into that breach in the interim while the community actually needs to take some ownership of it. We will continue to stand in that breach until the Napier community, including the council, in whatever shape or form ... we come together to work out what that will look like going forward in the future."

But she did not think moving the centre will be the solution.

"We don't believe the problem will move away from Clive Square just because the outreach has moved."

She said some people were still sleeping by the outreach centre during lockdown, because they were choosing not to be placed in emergency or temporary accommodation.

Hawke's Bay police prevention manager Inspector Martin James said police were working closely with other agencies, such as WIT and the council, to combat the problem.

"We have our response units, they've been down there the last three or four mornings - in fact they've been down there just after 7am, 7.15am, and we're making sure that our presence is felt."

He said if there was any damage or issues from that night, officers were dealing with the problems then and there.

He said a community constable was tasked with keeping a close eye on the area throughout the day.

Napier City Council community strategy manager Natasha Mackie confirmed a review to find the "ideal location" for an outreach service was done earlier this year.

The review found suitable areas, but no suitable buildings.

"There is wide support for a sustainable innovative outreach service," she said.

"Next steps are to workshop with government agencies, community organisations and leaders, mana whenua and faith-based organisations to identify the essential components of an outreach service with a view to redesign the current service if appropriate."

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