Shock find sparks call for Waitara homeless shelter

"I didn't think it was that bad in Waitara"

DEENA COSTER
Last updated 05:00 31/01/2014
Laura Nicholas and Billie-Lee Voyle
DEENA COSTER/ Fairfax NZ

CARING CITIZENS: Laura Nicholas and Billie-Lee Voyle want an emergency shelter built in Waitara.

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One person sleeping rough is one too many, say two Waitara residents who think the town needs its own emergency shelter.

Laura Nicholas and Billie-Lee Voyle are worried some people have no place to lay their heads at night.

The pair are calling on someone to take up the challenge of setting up a safe house in the town.

Voyle said earlier this week she had first-hand experience of the problem. While out walking on Monday night she came across a man sleeping on the side of the road in what she described as "freezing" weather.

"I couldn't believe that this could happen in Waitara," she said.

The mother of two said she called police as she did not know what else to do.

"I was quite shocked," she said.

She said she posted her experience on Facebook, which was seen by Nicholas.

"Nobody should have to sleep outside in this country," said Nicholas.

The former teacher said in the past she had offered her own home to people in need and was heartened by the support she and Voyle had received so far about the idea of setting up a shelter.

"What amazes me is the amount of people who would help," she said.

Although the women were aware of services available in New Plymouth, they wanted a similar setup for the town which was run by Waitara people.

Both women said they would be able to support any person or organisation who took on the project.

Community Housing Action Taranaki's Brian Eriksen said he had heard several stories about people sleeping rough in Waitara, but was not sure about the true extent of the problem.

"I didn't think it was that bad in Waitara," he said.

He said the biggest factor around housing was its unaffordability. He intended to raise those issues at the next meeting of the Taranaki Housing Coalition group.

Senior Sergeant Matt Prendergast, who is based in Waitara, said he was not aware of anyone living rough around the town.

However, he encouraged people to get in touch with police if they thought someone might need help.

"We want to check to make sure their welfare is OK and what their circumstances are," he said.

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