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Fears for the homeless

Concerns have been expressed by many people in the Gisborne community about what will happen to homeless people during the Covid-19 lockdown.

A group of volunteers who have fed the needy on the streets of Gisborne for over five years have stopped.

Welfare agencies are reaching out to the homeless to ensure they receive support they need throughout the lockdown, civil defence emergency manager group controller David Wilson said.

Mayor Rehette Stoltz said she shared the concern people have about the homeless during the lockdown.

Feed Tairawhiti is an independent group of over 50 volunteers from all backgrounds who come together to help provide meals to the needy every Friday and Sunday night.

On Tuesday, they stopped donating, cooking and feeding the needy in line because of the rules of the lockdown.

“Our volunteers are torn and very worried about the needy whanau they feed,” said Tash Stumpf, one of the Feed Tairawhiti coordinators.

“They realise with Covid-19 virus and the alert levels, this decision is out of their hands.”

“Many of our volunteers have indicated they are happy to stand down for the safety of themselves, their whanau and community, and say they will be back as soon as they are able.”

“We have no idea what will happen with our whanau on the streets which is very worrying,” Ms Stumpf said.

Mayor Stoltz, in a Facebook live video yesterday, said “I do get quite a few people messaging who are concerned about our homeless and I share that concern with you.

“It is such a horrible time, it always is horrible to be homeless, but this is a real concern for us at the Gisborne District Council as well.

“I want to assure you that our welfare team are aware of this and are reaching out and seeing how they can help.”

“So thank you so much to everyone who has been writing and emailing to me asking about our homeless. They are dealing with our welfare support team at this stage,” Mayor Stoltz said.

Mr Wilson said the council's emergency coordination centre teams were working closely with the region's welfare agencies to ensure Tairawhiti's homeless were cared for and received the support they needed throughout the Covid-19 lockdown.

“These matters are being dealt with on a case-by-case basis.”

Police said Government agencies and local welfare service providers had been working to make sure the people they connect with knew what was happening, had a place to go and could continue connecting with services.

“Police will support through reassurance patrols and frontline staff sharing information to help people who need support,” a police spokesperson said.

• See also Local Democracy Reporter Aaron van Delden's story here.

  1. Lizz Crawford - Oasis Community Church says:

    We’ve been trying to contact the Mayor but she is very in demand. We could work a sentinel and infection control but neither David or Rehette has responded so homelessness goes on. We could work together with Feed Tairawhiti. Sorry but this is avoidable.