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Retreat beats the street

Colleen Spiro and Robin Bamford hanging out at Street Retreat last Wednesday.

Street Retreat is one of the many volunteer-run initiatives making life easier for rough sleepers in Tauranga.

Radio hits were on full blast at the drop-in centre last Wednesday, with people in full cruise mode – playing board games, enjoying kai, having a cuppa and chilling out on mattresses.

“That’s what it’s all about. Having space where we can just chill out for the day,” says Street Retreat regular Robin Bamford.

“This is one of the best street things available, my heart is right into it big time. As you can see there are only good vibes here, and it’s real cruisey.”

Robin has spent the last two winters living in a tent in the CBD and is currently couch surfing at a mate’s house.

“I’ve been unemployed for quite a few years, and this would be my third winter tenting it but I am indoors at the moment. It can be hard tenting it, especially in winter.”

Street Retreat takes place every Wednesday from 11.30am to 3pm at the Holy Trinity Church.

Organiser Colleen Spiro highlights the importance of the programme, saying it is one of the few daytime services for homeless people in Tauranga.

“It’s one of the only places people come and relax and get out of the weather for a few hours during the day.

“We have a lot of guys who show up regularly every week, it’s quite nice for the guys to relax and maintain relationships with each other in a chilled-out environment that’s not the street.

“They get the opportunity to do things we take for granted, have a lie-down, listen to music, charge their phones,” says Colleen.

Robin is grateful the centre runs in the middle of the week because it helps break the daily grind of sleeping rough.

He says there is a real need for more daytime centres for homeless in Tauranga, particularly for when it's pouring with rain outside.

"If it’s pouring down with rain, there’s nowhere for any homeless to go. There's no roof or anything. All we need is a simple shelter.

Colleen and Robin agree that Street Retreat is almost perfect – the only thing it’s missing is a shower.

“We have food, hot drinks, recycled warm clothes, games, music, crafts, and a lady comes in to cut hair,” says Colleen.

“We are always needing things like toiletries, but mostly we need a shower here. We have a bathroom, but it’s not quite the same.

“Overall, we are rapt that it goes so well every week and are extremely grateful towards our volunteers and generous community.”

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