Trust House steps up for homeless

Community support for a dedicated home for homeless in Masterton continues unabated, the latest a $97,000 grant from the Trust House Foundation.

Project Manaaki spokesperson Tom Gibson says Trust House’s contribution is a huge boost to getting the ‘Shelter Masterton” house ready to be occupied.

The property, on Elizabeth Street, requires around $120,000 to refurbish. When completed it will have capacity to accommodate nine people.

Mr Gibson says it has taken an extraordinary effort by volunteers to get to this stage. None of it would have been possible without the generosity of a caring community.

“Sometimes we just pinch ourselves that this has happened,” he says.

The origins for the project started early last year at the Masterton Foodbank where it become increasingly apparent that the community had a growing homeless problem.

One of the trailblazers was Masterton Foodbank coordinator Lyn Tankersley who mobilised  a group of volunteers to take action. By August they had set up a day shelter housed in a vacant hall at the back of the Anglican church complex on Church Street. The shelter opens Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1pm to 4pm, and is staffed entirely by volunteers.

It is homely, with couches, a TV set, and heated by a heat pump and log burner. There is a shower, toilet facility and washing machine, hot meals, (prepared by the community kitchen), and hot drinks are provided free of charge.

Mr Gibson says numbers of clients attending have gradually increased since the shelter opened.

“The shelter has worked really well, but it hasn’t been able to prevent homeless people from having to sleep rough,” he says.

And so Project Manaaki was born. The literal translation of “manaaki” is hospitality. However, in Māori its meaning is much deeper, extending to respect and hospitality to others in a way that upholds their mana and enhances your own.

In a hot property market, purchasing a house was not without its challenges. Having eventually found a place, then going unconditional, three banks turned them down for a mortgage.

“We were really in a pickle. Then from nowhere a couple came forward anonymously and offered to buy it and gift it to us . . . just wonderful.”

Among the work that needs to be done is: re-piling, space and water heating, addition of a second bathroom and the siting of donated cabins in the backyard to increase available accommodation.

Mr Gibson says with support from volunteers and tradespeople Shelter Masterton should be ready to occupy by the end of summer.

This project aims to provide comfortable safe transitional housing for homeless people and to provide a caring and supportive environment to help enable homeless people eventually find appropriate permanent accommodation.

“Thus the home is not just a ‘shelter’, it is part of an integrated plan to help support homeless people re-establish their lives. This will involve partnership with a number of different providers, people and organisations to ensure clients receive the best care possible.

“Care is provided in a supportive and non-judgmental way and is available to all truly homeless people.”

It is important to note that the homeless clients being supported by the project receive little or no support from other sources.

“The strength and well-being of communities is perhaps best measured by how well communities look after their weakest member,” Tom Gibson says.

Lyn Tankersley, Co-ordinator Shelter Masterton, at the Elizabeth Street property which is about to under-go a big refurbishment thanks to a $97,000 grant from the Trust House Foundation.