Hastings project for homeless awarded
Pastor Warren Heke. Photo: Florence Charvin

The “chronically homeless” in Hawke’s Bay have always been under pressure but now, since Cyclone Gabrielle that pressure has spiked with the “newly homeless” added to the mix.

Hastings Church lead pastor Warren Heke said the aftermath of the cyclone put a lot of pressure on the already vulnerable in our region.

“After the cyclone people were drifting into Hastings from outlying parts where they have lost places to stay,” Heke said.

“There’s been a 30% increase in the newly homeless people seeking our services, especially those seeking mental health help, that’s put pressure on the chronically homeless.”

He said there had also been an anecdotal increase in the number of people living in their cars as more vulnerable people moved into central city since the cyclone.

“It’s a transient population but there has definitely been an increase.”

The church opened its doors at its new site in Hastings CBD in August 2022 and had projected to cater for 25 people to 40 per day.

That number has, since the cyclone, risen to 140 registered users with approximately 70 regular users who used the church services three or more days per week.

Heke said they had increased the number of staff from two full-time staff and a handful of volunteers back in August 2022 to six full-time staff and five causal staff to meet the demand.

The church offers a safe place, kai, a shower, somewhere to charge a phone, and assistance to access medical services, job opportunities and homes.

“We’ve got people into regular work who weren’t able to hold down jobs; we’ve broken the reoffending cycle for others. We’ve supported people into permanent housing, who are now contributing back to their community through the hub,” Heke said.

“We have given agency back to a vulnerable community that have often felt powerless over their own lives. As a faith-based organisation, we’re confident a non-transactional approach to care works. Collaboration born out of long-term trust relationships works at every level. Whether with funders, operators, local government, providers, and service users – it’s the bedrock to sustainable positive outcomes and a thriving community.”

Heke said he was “very grateful” for the support of those who believed in what the church offered.

The church has a five-year funding agreement with the Hastings District Council and Anglican Care Waiapu and also gets community funding, funding from Lotteries, MSD and Te Whatu Ora.

On July 28, at the Local Government New Zealand annual conference in Christchurch, Hastings District Council was named the winner of the SuperCollab Award and the winner of the Supreme Award, for the Kuhu Mai initiative – a collaboration between Council, Hastings Church (via its Connect Community Trust), and Anglican Care Waiapu.

Hastings project for homeless awarded
From left Councillor Malcolm Dixon Deputy Chief Executive Bruce Allan Group Manager Marketing Communications and Engagement Naomi Fergusson Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst Hastings Church Pastor Warren Heke Councillor Wendy Schollum Councillor Kellie Jessup Hastings Churchs Sarah Heke Councillor Marcus Buddo Councillor Damon Harvey

The collaboration between Council, Hastings Church (via its Connect Community Trust), and Anglican Care Waiapu was recognised by the judges as a “shining example of the localism approach”.

Localism is councils “working collaboratively with various stakeholders, including community members, partner organisations and public services to create impactful projects that cater to the unique needs of their communities”.

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said she was “incredibly proud” of all of the partners to the initiative. 

“As a council we have a strong emphasis on working with partners to help our community to the best of our ability. We understand that together we are stronger, and this partnership with Hastings Church and Anglican Care Waiapu is yet further proof of that.”

Anglican Care Waiapu chief executive Lucy Laitinen said that the Anglican Church had a long history of supporting the vulnerable in the community, for example through city missions, but it made more sense in Hastings to partner with those already doing the mahi, like Warren and Sarah Heke and their community.

“Relationship and aroha are at the heart of the Kuhu Mai approach with the vulnerable and we needed to model that in our own collaboration. For us this has meant much more than being just a funder; it’s about practical support and friendship. We all needed to pull our weight.”

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air


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