Island Child home closing

LAUREN PRIESTLEY
Last updated 05:00 14/02/2014
Urban Homelessness
MURRAY WILSON

NO HOME: Urban homelessness is on the rise in Auckland.

Urban Homelessness
SAYING GOODBYE: Danielle Bergin is closing her emergency housing programme in Pt England because of a lack of funding.

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It is is closing time for Danielle Bergin.

As the organiser of the Island Child Charitable Trust she provided a temporary home for up to 40 families a year who were sleeping in cars, garages and on the street.

Ms Bergin is a former homeless person who started the organisation in 2005 to provide assistance for families wanting to rebuild their lives.

But she has come to the end of the road.

"Being homeless isn't just about being houseless. Housing is just the first step. It's about vulnerable people needing life skills and employment opportunities.

"The resources are not actually getting to the grassroots and East Auckland is in desperate need."

Island Child's eight-week residential programme will be closing next month.

Ms Bergin has bought a Waikato farm and will invite families who have been through the programme to the trust's new farm-stay initiative.

She will be taking the good memories of families she has helped with her, Ms Bergin says.

One family that left an impression was a solo father with three daughters who came to Island Child with nowhere else to turn.

The love and security he gave to his daughters during the rough time was inspirational, Ms Bergin says. She was recently invited to his wedding.

"We've had some really top-notch people through here and they're the ones that stay with you," Ms Bergin says.

"We've got so many families with lovely kids who have never been on a farm. Now there's a chance to change that."

Lifewise service manager Corie Haddock says the number of homeless people in suburban Auckland is increasing every year.

The organisation has been taking on 20 new clients every month since November, he says.

"What you see in places like Pt England is urban homelessness. We're seeing that more and more. It's not just a big city issue."

Organisations like Lifewise and Island Child do most of their work off their own backs with the help of grants, he says. The numbers in need are increasing with housing shortages, rising living costs and the increasing challenge of maintaining a benefit.

"What I know is that we do our work better now than we have ever before. What we see is a real long-term solution to ending homelessness but our numbers are growing."

Monte Cecilia Housing Trust executive David Zussman says Ms Bergin's departure will leave a huge gap in Tamaki. The organisation has worked with Island Child in the past because it offers a similar supportive housing programme on a larger scale in South and West Auckland.

Emergency housing has slipped through the cracks for too long, Mr Zussman says.

"Maybe because it is unseen it goes by without a flicker.

"These families are in crisis. All of their energy and money is being spent on surviving."

There are only a handful of emergency housing providers left, he says.

"Individuals like Danielle can't take the burden for the whole community.

"It leaves a big gap and there's a question mark of who cares enough to do something about it? You can't leave it to one person."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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