Home­less given hope

East and Bays Courier - - P10 P5 - SHANI WIL­LIAMS

An east Auck­land church is con­vert­ing its of­fices into emer­gency hous­ing for home­less peo­ple.

Faith Fam­ily Con­nect, a Bap­tist church in Pan­mure, has been pro­vid­ing hot meals and beds to Pan­mure’s home­less since 2003. But, un­able to cope with cur­rent de­mand for shel­ter, the church has be­gun con­vert­ing its of­fices into board­ing rooms.

Se­nior pas­tor Carla Perese has also started rent­ing two nearby apart­ments for emer­gency hous­ing.

Re­cently the church started turn­ing peo­ple away for the first time due to a lack of avail­able beds.

‘‘More and more peo­ple are show­ing up on our doorstep and turn­ing them away is heart­break­ing - these are fam­i­lies, many with young chil­dren,’’ Perese said.

‘‘There are thou­sands on the street in this city and we have got this big build­ing - so, we have de­cided to use it, all of it,’’ she said.

Faith Fam­ily Con­nect cur­rently ac­com­mo­dates 16 peo­ple but after ren­o­va­tions hopes to ac­com­mo­date more than 30.

Peo­ple of all ages seek refuge at Faith Fam­ily Con­nect - the youngest be­ing a 3-month-old baby and the old­est a 58-year-old.

Vis­i­tors were asked to stay for at least 13 weeks, Perese said.

‘‘We do not just want to pro­vide emer­gency ac­com­mo­da­tion, we want to equip vis­i­tors with the tools to get back on their feet,’’ Perese said.

Perese, with the help of eight vol­un­teers, runs weekly lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy classes, and ‘‘ba­sic skills’’ work­shops as part of its 13 week pro­gram.

‘‘Many of these peo­ple are un­able to fill out forms, have no form of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and have no bank ac­count,’’ she said.

In the last 12 months, more than 16 peo­ple have com­pleted the pro­gram and are now em­ployed full­time.

The vol­un­teers come from dan­ger­ous back­grounds and credit the pro­gram for turn­ing their lives around.

Joel Love, 35, first ar­rived at Faith Fam­ily Con­nect in 2014 when his fam­ily was liv­ing on the streets in Glen Innes.

Love has been in and out of prison since he was 15-years-old on charges in­clud­ing griev­ous bod­ily harm, ag­gra­vated rob­bery and drug pos­ses­sion. He now men­tors young home­less peo­ple and his wife is a suc­cess­ful chef.

Love said metham­phetamine and syn­thetic drugs were a huge prob­lem amongst youth.

‘‘We have seen chil­dren as young as nine de­pen­dant on these harm­ful sub­stances,’’ he said.

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