Shelter Gives Homeless Women a Safe Place to Sleep This Winter

This winter, some of Auckland’s homeless women will have a warm, safe place to sleep.

The Auckland City Mission’s Te Whare Manaaki Wāhine women’s shelter provides safe, welcoming, and temporary accommodation for women starting from Sunday 1 July.

With construction on the City Mission’s new Mission HomeGround redevelopment due to start in October, the detox services based at their Federal Street facility in central Auckland have shifted – and the Mission saw an opportunity to provide for an urgent need.

“The Prime Minister put out a call asking for Aotearoa to help the homeless over winter, and we took that quite seriously,” Helen Robinson, GM – Social Services explains. “One of our buildings would have been empty for three months while we prepare for construction on the site, and we are utilising that space as a 10-bed night shelter for women. Te Whare Manaaki Wāhine, which means ‘house of hospitality for women’, will on a night-by-night basis provide food, a warm bed, a shower, laundry facilities, and support services where appropriate.

“Because of this opportunity, there will be 10 less vulnerable women sleeping on the streets each night this winter.”

Helen explains that for women and transgender women sleeping rough, their risk of experiencing violence is overwhelmingly high. “With the creation of Te Whare Manaaki Wāhine, we are claiming a space for women by women, which is safe and trauma-informed. Our staff are all female, including female security guards.”

The Auckland City Street Count, which counts the number of rough sleepers within 3km of the Sky Tower, recorded 45 women sleeping on the street in the last count in 2016 – up from 31 in 2014. The City Mission expects that in reality, the numbers of women sleeping rough this winter are even higher.

One of the City Mission’s clients, a 32-year-old woman named Moana, has been on the streets for three years. “The women’s shelter is a really good idea,” she says. “Last year I was so cold all winter, even though I had a good sleeping bag. Sleeping outside in all kinds of weather is hard on the body and soul.”

It is bodies and souls that Te Whare Manaaki Wāhine aims to heal over the three months it will be open, with one of its overarching aims being to provide an opportunity for women in need. “It’s about responding to the immediate needs, and in winter and every night here in Auckland, there are many needs for women. If it's just a bed for the night and a shower and some food, then we’ll have achieved our goal,” Helen says. “But it is also about providing opportunity for further conversations with very vulnerable women, and for sustained, long-term pathways to wellbeing.”

The Mission is part of the Auckland Housing First collective and works in partnership with fellow social services agency Lifewise to provide the Housing First programme in central Auckland. The Mission sees the Housing First model, which provides permanent supportive housing, as the best approach to providing homes for the homeless. However, Housing First also recognise that emergency housing plays an important role in the housing continuum for some people before they are able to enter a Housing First programme or before permanent housing is available.

Providing a temporary shelter for inner city homeless women over winter is both a compassionate response to an immediate urgent need and also an opportunity to provide initial assessments for further response to complex needs. The Mission along with their partners is committed to finding the best ways to respond to urgent emergency needs as well as looking for long-term solutions.

Over 80% of the City Mission’s services are funded through donations, and year-round, they provide emergency food assistance, low-cost health care, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, outreach support for rough sleepers, support for isolated elderly people, an activities programme and community centre for central Auckland’s homeless population, and a Crisis Care service for low-income individuals and families.

The Mission is currently running their mid-year fundraising drive and donations to their Winter Appeal can be made at aucklandcitymission.org.nz or by calling the City Mission on 09 303 9200.

Te Whare Manaaki Wāhine opened on Sunday 1 July and will remain open until 30 September.

  • It will provide a 10-bed, night-by-night shelter for women and those who identify as women (ie, transgender women).
  • Each woman who stays at Te Whare Manaaki Wāhine will be provided with food, a warm bed, a shower, laundry facilities, and support services where appropriate.
  • Please donate to the City Mission’s Winter Appeal today at aucklandcitymission.org.nz.

Read the story on Scoop here.

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