Habitat steps up to help homeless

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Habitat for Humanity Invercargill general manager Paul Searancke inside the organisation's ReStore shop in Glengarry. Photo: Petrina Wright

AS Invercargill’s housing shortage continues to escalate, Invercargill’s Habitat for Humanity is increasing its involvement in the city, stepping up to do its bit.

Within the past 12 months, Habitat for Humanity had bought the former Kew Bowl site for a housing development, taken over management of the Grand Hotel, began assisting with a Stewart Island housing project and opened a third second-hand store in the city.

Habitat for Humanity Invercargill general manager Paul Searancke said the projects were in response to the city’s housing issues, something he was very aware of as a result of his involvement with the Southland Housing Action Forum and his organisation’s work assisting people to find emergency accommodation.

“We are walking the talk.”

In May last year, Habitat for Humanity took over management of the Grand Hotel, where some of the rooms were being used for emergency housing.

Mr Searancke said about 500 bed nights were required for emergency housing in the city each month, and they wanted to ensure their clients had somewhere warm, safe and dry to stay.

Rooms on the second and third floors had been allocated for use as emergency housing, with rooms on other floors available for paying short and long-term stays.

Midway through last year, Habitat for Humanity bought the Kew Bowl site in South City with a view to building a mixed-model housing development for families and seniors.

The development would include a combination of privately owned homes, rental properties and public housing.

Mr Searancke said the organisation bought the site because members wanted to ensure it was retained for housing to help address the city’s housing shortage.

“Kew Bowl needed to be used for housing, not another supermarket.”

The Kew Bowl development would be built in stages, with the first stage expected to be well under way by this time next year, he said.

A further project Habitat for Humanity was assisting with was a housing project in collaboration with the Stewart Island Seniors Cottage Trust. The project involved building 6-10 cottages for seniors in Oban, several of which would be available for people on low incomes.

There were few suitable homes in Stewart Island for older people and often they were forced to relocate to the mainland, away from their friends and the place they considered home, he said.

The trust was in the process of raising the necessary funding for the estimated $1.2 million development.

Mr Searancke said as Habitat for Humanity did not receive any government funding, it funded its work through the fundraising arm of the organisation, which included its ReStore in Glengarry, The Garage ReUse Shop at the Invercargill Waste Transfer Station and its electric bike hire and sales business, EBikesNZ.

To increase its income stream, Habitat for Humanity opened a third store, The ReUsery on Dee St in December, and planned to grow the EBikesNZ business as a cycling tourism venture.

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