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A place to call home

SARAH ROBERTS
Last updated 05:00 26/03/2014
WISE Guys

TOGETHER STRONG: WISE Guys men hanging out in their donated boat. From left, Jay Earnshaw, Douglas Hunt, Wayne Lapwood, Stephan John, Brent Milesi, Mika Seeto and Mark Chapman

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Men facing tough times have finally found a place they can call home.

Twenty-seven of them have taken up residence in the former elderly ward in the old Kingseat Hospital grounds.

The emergency accommodation is being managed by the men's support group WISE Guys.

"Men come from all backgrounds, not just homeless or those with alcohol issues," group counsellor Stephan John says.

"Many are victims of emotional abuse. Just imagine the most horrible childhood and that's what these men have been through. Some have been beaten and raped."

The group previously struggled to find a site.

Mr John says it became clear some landlords did not want "their type of people" around.

"There will always be assumptions and judgments in society," he says.

The group was "on hands and knees begging" for a semi-rural property to set up home for the men to live in and thought it had hit the jackpot with a property at Dairy Flat a few years ago.

But then it found it couldn't legally offer therapeutic services in the area and had to offer counselling from another site in Birkenhead.

The Kingseat property solved the problem and comes with a five-year lease.

The renovated villa has 32 bedrooms, several lounges, kitchens and counselling rooms.

The men pay for accommodation and food and counselling is offered as part of the cost.

There is a long waiting list of men in need of the service and WISE Guys is looking to rent another 42-bedroom villa on the Kingseat grounds.

"It's a real problem happening all over Auckland. There are women's shelters out there but men are missing out," Mr John says.

The property is on 63.9 hectares (158 acres) of land.

There is a marae, chicken coop and use of a rugby field. The men often venture down to the water to go fishing.

The group gets no funding so Mr John and facilitator Brent Milesi earn little income.

"It's about giving men a purpose. It's not about what the group can do for them, it's about what they can do for the group," Mr Milesi says.

"We work hand-in-hand with these men. Watch television together, eat together and we even tell stories by the fire. It's where the healing begins."

Call 0800 4 WISEGUYS (0800 494 734) if you need help or want more information. Donations are welcome.

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- Papakura Courier

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