Earthquake risk forces Sallies out of home

Last updated 05:00 24/05/2012
Doug Newman
NICCI GOURLEY/Fairfax NZ
TOO RISKY: Salvation Army Captain Doug Newman outside the Invercargill Supportive Accommodation Services building in Leven St, which residents must leave because of earthquake risk

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Salvation Army residents and staff have to abandon their Leven St building in Invercargill because an earthquake report has declared it unsafe but they have nowhere to go.

An independent engineers report, commissioned by the army, deemed the Invercargill Supportive Accommodation Services building unsafe, spurring bosses to close it down.

Staff and residents have one month to move out of the building which was built in 1905.

"We have some very vulnerable men here, some with medical diagnosis, who need a place to live," Salvation Army Captain Doug Newman said.

The 35-bed building was home to men who were on bail or had no other options in the city.

The Salvation Army national director of addictions and supportive accommodation, Gerry Walker, said the report came as a shock when it was released two weeks ago.

"We didn't see it coming," he said.

The building had been given an E rating, he said.

Buildings that are assessed for earthquake risk are rated from A to E by engineers, with A being 80-100 per cent of the current earthquake code and E indicating a building is less then 20 per cent.

The decision to leave promptly was to ensure the safety of residents and staff, he said. They would begin to shift in stages during the next three weeks.

A long-term resident said it was a shame he had to leave.

"It's a pity to see such an iconic building go. I had almost nothing when I came here but I am moving up and up. They look after me very well here."

He said he intended to remain with the Salvation Army and hoped people would help to find him a new home soon.

The organisation intends to retain its service in the city but desperately needs somewhere to go. However, it is considering possible options in Invercargill.

Mr Walker said everything was being done to ensure clients, who wished to leave now, made a safe transition to new accommodation.

About 14 staff and residents were told on Monday about the circumstances, which surprised them, he said.

"Some residents have been in the building for a significant number of years and any change will be a challenge."

Another disappointment was that the building was a quarter of the way through a refurbishment programme.

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- The Southland Times

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