Homeless shelter to open in Invercargill

Southland Breathing Space Trust chairman Colin Wood,left, and Invercargill Salvation Army Captain Perry Bray, in the ...
ROBYN EDIE/FairfaxNZ

Southland Breathing Space Trust chairman Colin Wood,left, and Invercargill Salvation Army Captain Perry Bray, in the upstairs corridor of the former Salvation Army Men's Hostel, which is the proposed site for the new homeless shelter, on Leven street.

A homeless shelter is set to open in Invercargill this year - and it's sure to please prison inmates who have nowhere to sleep after being released from the can.

However, the Salvation Army still needs final signoff from national headquarters, and health and safety procedures need to be agreed on before the shelter opens.

Invercargill city councillor Karen Arnold, speaking at this week's council meeting, said the new shelter would be at the former Salvation Army men's hostel in Leven St.

The men's hostel was closed in 2012 after a report revealed the building was earthquake prone, but a new report stated the building was not as bad as initially thought.

Arnold, who has worked alongside the project organiser, Breathing Space Southland Trust, indicated the new homeless shelter would be vastly different from the last.

It would house men, women and families, but only for several days at a time.

The shelter would be used by the likes of prison inmates who had nowhere else to go after being released on Friday nights, young mothers needing a place to stay for a few days and people who moved between friends houses and were sleeping on couches, she said. 

The days of homeless men staying in the building for 10 or more years, as they had done in the former men's hostel, were over.

The Breathing Space Southland Trust realised some people were happy living on the street, but the new hostel would be a place they could return to intermittently to wash their clothes, charge their cellphones and the like, Arnold said. 

The city council was putting $20,000 towards the shelter and a total of $80,000 had been raised to keep it going for the first year.

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Invercargill Salvation Army captain Perry Bray said the intention was for the shelter to open, but they still needed permission to use the Leven St building from national headquarters and a "duty of care" needed to be completed.

"We don't want to put a [released] prisoner next door to a female, sort of thing," he said. 

It was possible some building work also needed to be done which would need city council consents, he said.

Colin Wood, chair of the Breathing Space Southland Trust, said if the Leven Street building was not confirmed within three months the trust would turn to its other option, which he declined to discuss.

He expected a shelter to be up and running in the city by the end of this year, but said it was more than just a roof over the head of people who had fallen on hard times.

"We will try to offer them three to five days accomodation and a relationship with a support worker who has contacts with the agencies tasked with helping them." 

An Otago University study last year said 39 people were living without accommodation in Invercargill and dozens more were "severely housing deprived".

 - The Southland Times

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