Homeless given hope
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.