Community garden brings hope to Wellington’s homeless

By Talisa Kupenga

Wellington's community garden Mokai Kainga is helping the homeless get back on their feet. Those staying here say working in the garden is therapeutic and gives them hope for the New Year.

Resident Jason Aramoana, says "it's really just the healthy fresh air, a space to breathe."

Mokai Kainga Gardens Director Robert Te Whare takes in the homeless when they have nowhere else to go. He supports them to get back on their feet.

"It was a nice Christmas we had this year. Christmas is when we take people in off the streets, from the prisons, people who have been refered to us by Work and Income. So we've taken over seven just over the holidays." 

Aramoana found himself on the street after a former leg injury prevented his return to work. One of his legs will be amputated in the New Year and he says he would be lost without Te Whare's support.

He says "[it’s] really important we all need somebody to lean on a lot of us have got no parents.
"I'm settled in mind with his type of structure that he has here for all of us here. Family orientated, we just need some of that. We can't live without it." 

Te Whare says some here just need some time to get back on track "when people come here we don't say to them 'you can only stay for a short period of time' they can stay here until they're ready to move on."

Te Whare says maintenance work around the property gives those staying here a purpose and keeps them on the right path.

"They can be feeding the ducks they can be feeding the hens they can do a bit of gardening around the place they can clean the stream, they can be building a bridge and at the moment they are helping to build a pizza oven."

Te Whare also helps reconnect those staying here with families and remains a support system after they leave.