Suzanne Fincham of the Salvation Army speaks to a rough sleeper at the launch of a new programme dedicated to ending homelessness in Nelson. Photo: Kate Russell.

Plans to house Nelson’s homeless

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Every day, more than 20 homeless men come into The Male Room seeking help.

Although they can offer some guidance and support for males in the region, director Philip Chapman says it’s not enough to help the homeless.

“We haven’t got a shower – we don’t have all the facilities. What we desperately need in Nelson is a day shelter.”

To solve the problem, Philip has teamed up with other agencies – including Te Piki Oranga and Gateway Housing Trust, under the leadership of The Salvation Army to introduce Housing First Nelson Tasman.

Launched on Friday at Pioneer Park, the Government-funded programme aims to house and support homeless people with multiple, high and complex needs.

It is an expansion of the nationwide programme administered by The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development with Nelson Tasman being identified as an area of need.

The launch was attended by representatives from The Salvation Army, Nelson city councillors, representatives from Government, as well as members from the homeless community – including Tama Manuel, who Philip says has been a long-term visitor to The Male Room.

Tama has been calling his tent home for the past five years before being “in and out” of Franklyn Village for 19 years after his relationship broke down and he “hit the booze”.

He says the only good thing about living on the streets is “getting to see his mates” and it’s not just men – there are plenty of women struggling too.

Tama has started going to church and says he’d like a house and job.

He’s staying with a friend for Christmas, but then it will be back to his tent.

Nelson Salvation Army Captain Kenneth Walker says that homelessness is a “complex and growing problem” and estimates that there are 70 homeless in the area at any one time.

However, Housing First is a targeted service to the long-term homeless that seeks to provide accommodation first – regardless of any other help that might be sought.

“Having a stable home with support from The Salvation Army is the first step in getting them back on their feet,” says Kenneth.

“Because of the high cost of renting a house here – that’s assuming you can find one – combined with hardship associated with addiction or mental health, there is a growing homeless population in Nelson.”