Community house given fresh start

BILL MOORE
Last updated 12:00 10/05/2014

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Stoke's troubled House 44 has a new name and a new start but has yet to come up with any funding, Te Whai Oranga chairwoman Mary Turu says.

"House 44 has closed. Te Whai Oranga is the new entity, with a very strong, committed committee," Turu said after being elected unopposed at a meeting in the Karaka St community house on Thursday.

A committee of nine was also elected from the 20 or so residents who attended.

Turu said nobody from the failed House 44 trust was part of the new group, which became an incorporated society on April 1.

Te Whai Oranga was a positive group with "a good feeling", she said.

"We've involved a Tongan and a Samoan part of our community, which has never been involved here before."

The old House 44 trust ran into trouble last year, with allegations that it had badly mismanaged its finances, leading to an acrimonious public meeting and the loss of funding from the Ministry of Social Development, the Canterbury Community Trust and the Nelson City Council.

Set up in 2008, it had been operating as a drop-in centre and running a series of programmes, and received more than $100,000 from the council over the years.

Turu said the new society had been allowed access to the community house "under the provision that we secure funding as soon as possible".

It was opening from 9am to noon, running an opportunity shop and providing bread to people in need.

She said the society was exploring its funding options and might approach the council, depending on what sort of programmes the committee would decide to run.

"What makes up a community? Families, elderly, people that drink, people that smoke drugs, children, toddlers. We've got them all here," she said.

"That's your community, you work with it - the whole lot and all their cultures. You don't say ‘We only want the kids but we don't want the parents'."

House 44 had done its time and new people had come through to service the community, she said.

"There's a lot of talent and skills in this community, all it needs is a base to lift it up. We want to uplift, empower and enhance what people already have."

At the moment all the work was voluntary and money was needed for rent, power and the telephone. Some administration funding would also be welcome. Even a new laptop and printer would be a big help.

"People on this committee are skilled enough and I'm very pleased that they're giving their skills for nothing. It's not about the money, it's about getting the programmes up and running, then maybe the committee will discuss a wage," Turu said.

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Housing New Zealand national manager of tenancy support services, Karen Hocking, said HNZ was continuing to work with the group and had allowed it to continue to rent the premises as it looked for funding.

"We have let them know that we will review this arrangement in June or sooner if their circumstances change," she said.

City council community services chairman Pete Rainey said he wasn't aware of Te Whai Oranga but was pleased it had been set up.

"Of course we'd be happy to talk to them," he said. "There are various ways that [the] council could help them, but we wouldn't know until we've had an official representation from them.

"The council certainly has a mind to focus on Stoke, so that's entirely appropriate."

A function to farewell House 44 and launch Te Whai Oranga is being planned for next week.

- The Nelson Mail

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