Local agencies are banding together to support the homeless during the Covid-19 lockdown. Photo: NZ Herald.

Nelson’s homeless on nicotine replacement therapy as cigarette butts dry up

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Some members of Nelson’s homeless community are being given nicotine replacement therapy, due to the lack of cigarette butts lying around the city during lockdown.

The Salvation Army is working with NMDHB to provide the service so homeless are not going through nicotine withdrawals at an already testing time.

“They usually get butts off ground and they can’t do that anymore,” says Salvation Army Nelson envoy, Ros Vercoe.

“Some want it, some don’t – but we don’t want them going through withdrawals right now.”

Patches, lozenges and gum have been provided in bulk for distribution to Salvation Army-qualified ‘Quit Card’ providers, according to Barbara Greene – a quit coach with the NMDHB’s Stop Smoking Service.

“Nicotine replacement therapy is being supplied to ensure nicotine withdrawal symptoms are alleviated during this time, where access to their usual forms of tobacco is limited,” she says.

Ros says it’s just one way the Salvation Army is supporting Nelson’s homeless community during the Covid-19 lockdown.

“We’ve asked them what they need the most, and for them that was shelter, food, alcohol and cigarettes.”

Obviously the latter two are not being supplied, however daily food drops are being provided at a regular spot.

The Male Room’s Philip Chapman says they are still working hard to offer support to the homeless – however with the social distancing rule, this has been a challenge.

“We still see them congregating in Anzac Park, but it’s risky for us to approach them as we don’t have any [protective] gear. We’re keeping in contact with them through phone, but there is no easy fix.”

Philip optimistically says there could, however, be a “silver lining” in the situation.

“One homeless guy said to me the other day, ‘I think I’ll have to stop spending money on booze and buy food’.”

Meanwhile, Nelson Tasman Civil Defence Emergency Management (NTCDEM) has been focusing on the accommodation needs of those living without adequate shelter in Nelson so they can appropriately self-isolate.

This could include options at The Brook Valley Holiday Park and various motels around the city, with other options still being actively investigated.

A spokesperson says the local civil defence team has also been working closely with Housing First Nelson, a project led by the Salvation Army and in partnership with Te Piki Oranga, Male Room and Gateway Housing, to make sure the needs of those identified people are met.

They say as well as the ongoing work on housing, a wider multiagency wrap-around support plan is being implemented to meet the various needs of individuals that are referred for housing (such as food or other essential items).

Group Controller Rob Smith thanks those involved in this targeted work.

“This response has been a combined effort, and we want to thank both national and local agencies involved for helping make sure we can look after the more vulnerable members of our community during this lockdown.

“With their help, we have been able to make sure this vulnerable group still have food and appropriate facilities to keep them safe in their respective bubbles.”