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There have been homeless people living within the mangroves next to Danby Field in Thames. FILE PHOTO: KELLEY TANTAU

‘Home for the homeless’ project pitched

A project that hopes to put a roof over the heads of the homeless has been pitched to Thames-Coromandel district councillors.
It will need to have community backing, organisers said, but with it, it would have the potential to get people “back on their own feet”.
Project initiator Sonja Merz and Thames Baptist Church pastor Chris Lee presented during the public forum of council’s October 31 meeting, telling elected members how their ‘Coming Home’ initiative would provide support for those who have “fallen through the gaps in the system” and who have “hit rock-bottom”.
“The main idea is to provide a home and have house parents living there,” Sonja said. “The project is for those who are ready for change and would like to start a new life. There will be expectations of commitment from the participants… and there will only be a few people living in the house at the time, and living there for a year or two, until their lives are transformed and their hearts healed.”
Sonja said house residents would be connected with counsellors, therapists, prayer ministers, and other support systems to learn about life skills, values, identity, emotions, finances, parenting and relationships.
“The goal is recovery, restoration, healing and wholeness,” Sonja said. “People will get back on to their own feet, they will be reintegrated into society, reconnect with family, and get work
and housing.”
The project would rely on funds and volunteers, while it’s envisioned the house would be a private house, rented or owned, that could host up to six people.
It could be run as its own enterprise or retreat centre, Sonja said, or under an umbrella like the Baptist Church’s Living Well Trust.
“A single person can’t do this. A single church or institution would find it difficult to do this. But as a town, we can do this. I believe, if we all pull together, we can achieve this goal,” she said.
“We have many people in our town who really struggle; the need is big. The number of people with substance addictions and other mental health issues like anxiety and depression is
constantly increasing. Some have lost everything. We want to see them and care for them.”
Sonja said the Coming Home project team had its first meeting in the middle of October, with close to 50 people attending, including representatives from the Ministry of Social Development, the Thames Community Board, council, and Te Whatu Ora.
One of the main requests born from the meeting was a night shelter, she said, so that people could have a roof over their heads, and toilet and shower facilities.
“There are different needs out there, and people are at different stages. Some are not ready for change, but they still need to have basic needs met – and for them, a shelter would be important,” Sonja said.
“Others are at a point where they are ready to start a new life – and for those, a loving home would be the best place.”
The organisers were now at the point of forming a planning team, and said they would come up with “a thorough plan, a detailed concept”, which they could then present to the community and use for applications for funding and grants.