Unlike our “government”, Te Puea Marae is trying to do something practical for the homeless. Madeleine Chapman spent a week volunteering there, and wrote about it for The Spinoff:
A week at Te Puea
Te Puea Memorial Marae has become the epicentre and symbol of Auckland’s homeless families. The Spinoff’s Madeleine Chapman spent a week volunteering there to compile this report. Photography by Qiane Matata-Sipu.
When I first heard that Te Puea marae was providing food and shelter for the homeless, I imagined rows of mattresses on the floor and hot coffee in styrofoam cups. That’s my memory of marae sleepovers in primary school.
nstead, when I arrive on Monday to drop off some food, I’m stopped by a warden in the middle of the road. Once it’s clear I’m simply dropping off a donation, I’m directed to a makeshift front office where Crystal, the wardens team leader, greets me. She thanks me more than once for my very modest offering and asks that I sign the koha log book. There are pages and pages already filled with donations from the past month. I ask her if they are still needing volunteers.
“Oh yes,” she says quickly, “we always need volunteers.”
“The first thing they come for is a cup of tea. If they’re hungry, we feed them. Want a shower? We chuck some towels at them and they grab a shower. If they need clothes we find them clothes. After that we have an assessment to see what it is they need most and first. We have WINZ there to make sure that these people are getting everything that they’re entitled to.”
That’s Johnboi, resources team leader, speaking to a visitor as he gives them a tour. It seems simple because it is simple; people come to the marae in need and the marae tends to those needs as efficiently and best they can.
Some days are easier than others. It’s raining outside and will continue to rain all week. Johnboi knows that rain makes for more work.
These people aren’t trained in social services. It is not their job to house the homeless and organise for government agencies to help. But they do it anyway, and Johnboi hopes that soon someone else will step up.
“We’re just here to support during winter and we’re hoping that the agencies, the government, have opened their eyes by then.” …