Hot shower for homeless Tauranga workers

Tauranga people with jobs, living in their cars, now have a place to go to for a hot shower during their working week. Photo: Supplied.

A hot shower, hot cuppa and some friendly vibe is part of a new initiative by an organisation supporting Tauranga workers who are having to live in their cars.

It took just four days for the Street Kai team to set up a temporary shower and community gathering place down a laneway in Devonport Road in Tauranga’s CBD, with the first hot shower event held on April 9.

“Our Sunday hot showers are for our Tauranga homeless community and Tauranga workers living in cars,” says team connector Trace Carlton.

She says due to a lack of affordable housing there are Tauranga people with jobs living in their vehicles.

"The hot showers and hot cuppas and chats is about human-ness, connection, and building community again after the impacts of the last two years with Covid-19," says Trace.

“It’s singles, elders, couple, men and women, who have jobs, but living in their cars. They need somewhere to have a hot shower. Usually they’ve had somewhere to rent, but the landlord has wanted to renovate, so they’ve had to leave their home and can’t get back into the rental market.”

She says $600 -$1000 per week rents are beyond most people’s incomes, and so they have ended up living in their cars.

“It’s pretty grim. Parents have been living in cars with up to three children.”

"Covid has changed everything. We wanted to bring back hot showers, and have set out chairs to help build a sense of community again.”

The Street Kai team, which has been operating since 2017, and now in its fifth year, still has the original six founders.

All volunteers, they include a doctor, two nurses, a social worker, someone to take care of finances, and Trace herself who connects the team with the growing widespread community of Tauranga’s homeless.

“The situation is so much worse than when I started in 2017,” says Trace.

“And Covid has changed the nature of what we do. We’ve moved into adapting and understanding.”

As well as those with jobs living in their cars, she says over a week the team supports 35 other men and women “doing it hard on our CBD streets and living in tents”, aged from late teens to as old as 70 years.

Tracey says there’s a community meal available nearly every day somewhere in Tauranga.

She is wanting to help bring back the strong sense of connection, which existed pre-Covid, but which has been hampered somewhat by the need to maintain social distancing and protect people from Covid infection.

The Sunday hot shower for homeless workers initiative in Devonport Road has been assisted with funding that the Street Kai team received from the Covid-19 Response funding.

“We are proud of this project and wanted to put the funding to good use,” says Tracey.

“One thing people say to us is that they wish they could have a hot shower and hot water.”

All that was required, apart from obtaining a temporary shower unit and heating water heating equipment was to locate a water tap.

A local business in Tauranga’s CBD made their tap available, and the team set up down a laneway off Devonport Road, which means they are able to provide some discretion and dignity for those who come, as well as privacy from the public’s eye.

“People in the community have come on board and understand the need. We are able to provide dignity, mana, wellbeing and connection to workers who are homeless and they come out glowing, not just from having a hot shower but also having a hot cuppa and chat.

“The whole thing is about wellbeing. And the best thing is we can easily shift location. We know that having access to hot showers and hot water is a requirement for them.”

She says homelessness in Tauranga has “gone up a notch", particularly amongst people with jobs who can’t afford to rent.

As well as the Sunday hot shower and cuppa run by Street Kai, there are other voluntary community groups across Tauranga reaching out to help people.

These include St Peters Church, Elim Church, Lifezone Church, Curate Church, Under the Stars and Kai Aroha.

Under the Stars has been using the Cliff Rd hall for their Saturday dinner since 2016 and Thursday lunch since 2019, with hot showers available.  As well as providing hot meals, hot drinks and showers, they also provide toiletries, blankets, sleeping bags, tents, birth certificates, clothing, advocacy, connection to other services, referrals, a mini library, and conversation.

Community meals in Tauranga:
Sunday:

  •     Jesus Safe Haven, Elizabeth St Community Hall, 169 Elizabeth St, 10am

Tuesday:

  •     St Peter’s Church, 130 Spring St, 11am-12pm
  •     Arataki Community Centre, Zambuk Way, 6pm

Wednesday:

  •     Elim Church, Koromiko St, 6:30pm

Thursday:

  •     Lifezone Church, 6 Oak St, 8am
  •     Under the Stars, Cliff Rd Community Hall, 45 Cliff Rd, showers 10am-12pm, lunch 12-1pm

Friday:

  •     Kai Aroha, Greerton Community Hall, 5:30pm AND Papamoa Sport & Rec Centre, 5:30pm

Saturday:

  •     Under the Stars, Cliff Rd Community Hall, 45 Cliff Rd, showers 2-5pm, dinner 5-6pm



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