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Whangarei's Canopy Bridge Sleep-Out attracts 65 people

Press Release - for immediate release: 16 Oct 2016

Over 65 people, ranging in age from 6 to over 70 years, braved the volatile weather conditions to sleep-out at Whangarei’s Town Basin Saturday night; mostly on the Canopy Bridge with several taking shelter in their cars.

Chairperson Adrian Whale described it as the perfect sleepless night to honour the 10-years of dedicated work the Trust has put in serving the homeless of Whangarei. ‘It was such a fun communal event; a simple meal, telling stories, singing together, building relationships; all key things to raise awareness of the reality of what is happening in our own backyard.

‘Last night provided a totally different experience from what my family is use to. It gave us a new perspective of how difficult life could be,’ said Mr Whale. ‘Staying in such a cold open space in the centre of the city made us grateful for the small things in life - a pillow, a quiet, comfortable place to sit, a basin to brush your teeth in. We take so much for granted. We could be more generous.’ At the start of the night Auckland City Missioner, Chris Farrelly, provided a challenge to continue to love our neighbours and be the voice of those in poverty. And Carol Peters, one of the original founders, who cut the chocolate anniversary cake with Chrissy McLoughlin, the Trust’s first Operations Manager, shared how the origins of the Trust were firmly grounded in the community.

‘It only got going because of the efforts of the local churches and organisations. They have continued to support and fund it all the way along. It is only recently that the government has got on-board,’ Ms Peters said.

‘A big thanks has to go out to the local businesses like Big Save, Kia Tupato and Hirepool plus Soul Food, St Andrews and Salvation Army. They really got behind the event. But most praise needs to go to our staff team,’ declared Mr Whale. ‘They are real life Good Samaritans - going the extra mile, always opening their arms to anyone in need of help in a moment of crisis, providing them with a safe place to stay, giving our tenants hope and confidence to face the future.’ Tai Tokerau Emergency Housing Charitable Trust began in 2006 and has helped house about 950 households and provided additional support for another 1900 households. It operates three properties, and can accommodate up to eight families and six single-men. It hopes to double its family accommodation within a month to be able to meet the overwhelming demand.

‘Since January enquiries have jumped from 29 per month to 40 per month; there are families coming up from Auckland and more families being evicted from private rental properties in Whangarei. What is most worrying is that we are seeing an increase in families where at least one parent is working,’ reported Mr Whale.

‘Ironically we had about the same number on the bridge tonight as we have had to turn away from our service over the past month because we don’t have the capacity to house them. To tackle the large issues of poverty and homelessness, we need to come together and share ideas and resources more. After tonight’s experience we are keen to do this by makin this an annual event on Whangarei’s calendar.’

-ends -

Please visit website http://www.emergencyhousing.org.nz or

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