Replicating the Te Puea community model

By D'Angelo Martin

Te Puea Marae first opened its doors to shelter and feed homeless families in South Auckland in 2016 and is about to do the same again this winter.

Hope is in the air as the homeless program has turned out to be a huge success and other marae are interested in jumping onboard the kaupapa.

Yesterday, Auckland's Te Kotahitanga Marae hosted a gathering of marae and community members to wānanga and discuss possible opportunities for more initiatives like this to be funded. 

Te Puea acts as a safe haven for the homeless, those who passed through its doors were assisted by 1,200 volunteers.

Hurimoana Dennis, chairman for Te Puea Marae says, "Here's the facts, here's the evidence, it can work.  416 whānau later, māmānoiho mō mātou, tangata pākeha hainamana moananui ā kiwa Māori, rātou i haere mai ki Te Puea mātou e tiaki mai ana."

The marae kaimahi focused on the needs of whānau rather than simply putting a roof over their heads. 

Dana Leaf Johnstone, who was boarding at Te Puea for over two months with her tamariki, says she had hit rock bottom and that she needed help.

"When they got my whare, I was happy to just move into a used home but I was truly blessed with a brand-new Housing New Zealand home, you know, a fresh start".  

However, turning your back on a life of turmoil is not easy.

"The more that I tried to change my life for the better, for my children and to try better my relationship with their father, things will always pop up that will usually make me go backward."

The main objective for the Te Kotahitanga Marae hui was to ensure marae embody their purpose- supporting the community, and to look at how other marae can establish their own homeless programmes. 

"Our whakaaro is we focus on the tangata, the whānau, the whānau ora te wairua o te whānau the whare will come.  At the moment for me, there's too much focus on the whare and not the tangata," says Dennis.

Johnstone agrees, "They didn't just house me and leave me in there, they kept contacting me, coming, bringing kai for me and my family, just coming to have a kōrero, have a cup of tea, bringing over biscuits ... that really helped knowing that they're still there."