Homeless applaud mission news

Christchurch's homeless have welcomed a city council and government move to provide a temporary shelter for people living rough in the city.

The council plans to resurrect the old City Mission building in Hereford St and convert it into four units where homeless people can stay for two to three weeks while they get the support they need to secure a permanent roof over their head.

The Government will pay $100,000 toward the $200,000 cost of getting the shelter operational. The council will pay the balance, Deputy Mayor Vicki Buck said yesterday.

The move comes after The Press reported on the plight of the city's homeless in the past fortnight.

Two of the men who appeared in the stories, Uncle and Mickey, praised the decision yesterday.

"Yes, yes! And amen to that. That is the best news I've heard in a long time," said Uncle, 49, clapping his hands.

Uncle had been looking at spending his 50th birthday on the streets - not any more, he said.

"None of us are going to have to celebrate another birthday on the streets," said Mickey.

Michael, another homeless person, said having services built into a new shelter would help them "regain their lives".

"You can't have a life if you are on the street. But here we have an opportunity to take the next step and be in a better position to get back our lives," he said.

Buck said the shelter was the first step in a range of measures that were being looked at to address the "intolerable" situation faced by the city's homeless community.

Yesterday, Amy Burke, the woman who set up the Facebook page Help For The Homeless Christchurch, broke down as she told Buck and other members of the council's housing committee about the plight of some of the homeless people she had met.

Many of them had "lost themselves out there on our cold, harsh streets" and were confused as to how they had ended up there with nothing, Burke said.

"How is it that in Christchurch, the Garden City . . . there are people out there living on the streets sick, cold, hungry and confused?" Burke asked. "This will not do - this is not good enough.

"Help me to help them to help themselves."

Karen Terris, who has been working with the homeless as a volunteer for about 18 months, said there was a desperate need in Christchurch for another night shelter. The City Mission's shelter was operating at capacity.

She said she was working regularly with a group of between 30 and 50 people, mainly men, who did not have anywhere to stay and who spent their time moving from one abandoned building to another.

"Everybody should have a roof over their head and these guys don't. These guys are at the bottom. They've got nothing and no one."

Backing the move to convert the old building into temporary accommodation, housing committee chairman Cr Glenn Livingstone said it was not acceptable to have people without shelter in Christchurch.

The Press