20 Dec 2021

Nelson homeless shelter to close after 35 years

5:40 pm on 20 December 2021

An emergency accommodation provider in Nelson is shutting its doors, after more than three decades supporting the city's homeless men.

General vision of homelessness in Auckland central city.

(File image) Photo: RNZ / Luke McPake

The Nelson Night Shelter Trust was set up by All Saints Anglican Church and St Vincent de Paul Society in 1986.

Trust co-chair Sarah Thompson said the difficult decision to close was made after several external reviews as well as increasing legislative and health and safety requirements.

"It's been a really, really tough process because it has been such a great service that we've operated for over 35 years, but we've recently been working with Housing First, which is an international evidence-based initiative that provides accommodation, but more importantly, wraparound support to people experiencing homelessness."

The Housing First programme was launched in the top of the South Island in 2019 and is run jointly by the Salvation Army, healthcare provider Te Piki Oranga, and support and advocacy network The Male Room.

The shelter, on Vangaurd Street in central Nelson, can house eight men but is currently being used by between four to six men each night.

"Our trust deed states that they can only stay for up to three days, but more recently people have been staying for longer because we haven't had that need for the true emergency housing.

"It's more people experiencing these kind of chronic homelessness issues, that they really need greater support than we can provide in order to lift them out of their current situation and put them into a more sustainable solution."

For the last 27 years, the shelter was run by supervisor Edward Andrews, who Thompson said had done an "incredible job".

The trust made a unanimous decision at a meeting earlier in December to close the Night Shelter at the end of February and wind the trust up around the same time.

Thompson said they had not decided what would be done with the buildings, which are on the grounds of the All Saints church, but the trust deed states any outstanding assets be donated to a charitable organisation.

Homelessness is an increasing problem in Nelson, linked to the high cost of housing.

As of September, there were 267 applicants in the city waiting for a home on the Ministry of Social Development's housing register. It is more than four times as many as the same time five years ago, when there were 48 applicants on the register in September 2016.

A 2018 survey by The Male Room of about 40 homeless men in Nelson found the majority wanted somewhere they could shower and cook food.

Despite being homeless, it also showed most of the men felt hopeful about the future.

It was the first survey of its kind done in the region, prompted by increasing numbers experiencing homelessness.

Several months ago, Whare Haumaru, a hub for the homeless was opened at The Male Room equipped with kitchen, bathroom and laundry facilities.

It was made possible by the region's Rotary clubs with help from the Nelson City Council, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, Rata Foundation, St Vincent de Paul Society and the Salvation Army.

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