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‘We are just stoked to be here’ - Awhina House

Tauranga’s homeless women’s shelter Awhina House celebrated their first birthday last week. General manager Angela Wallace. File image/SunLive.

The vision of Awhina House remains the same as it did when it first opened one year ago.

“Our vision is that no woman in Tauranga Moana would wake up without hope for her future.”

The homeless women’s shelter celebrated their first birthday last week throwing a “birthday bubble party” for essential staff and residents.

Local pianist Rosalie Liddle Crawford played celebratory tunes over livestream, and residents feasted on cheerios, roast duck, sausage rolls and chocolate gateau.

Awhina House general manager Angela Wallace says looking back on the past year brings about feelings of hope and respect for vulnerable women in Tauranga.

“We are the shining light for people to come - to be safe, to rest, to reflect, to journey forwards and find their wings.

“I have huge gratitude that we are here for our women who are homeless - especially at this time.”

To date, 40 women have resided at the shelter. Support for residents continues when they are living independently, says Angela

She points out the facilities are not a band aid for homelessness, rather a place for transformation.

Staff members Angela Wallace, Anna Young and Crystal Ellis enjoying the birthday feast. Supplied image.

In the coming year, Angela hopes to see their “extended whanau” continue to flourish.

“We want women who have come to us, who have been housed and are now living independently to grow.”

But she says in order to make this happen there is one great need.

“We need houses for our women. We need landlords to pay attention and understand they can change these women’s lives by renting out houses to them.

The biggest challenge Awhina House faces is the lack of housing in Tauranga, says Angela.

She reiterates that women staying at the house must put the work in to turn their lives around.

“The wahine show such huge resilience - engaging with support and working so hard on their well-being. Coming here isn’t the easy option.

“Yes it is a safe place and roof over your head, but residents take ownership of their situation and put their best efforts in to get a place to live.”

Angela says after one year, she is just “stoked to be here” supporting vulnerable women in Tauranga.

“Our goal was simple - to provide a calm, peaceful and safe environment for homeless women.  And here we are one year later, doing it.”

The shelter, which receives no government funding, is seeking out financial support amid the COVID-19 lockdown.

“I know it’s a hard time to ask people to give because many are experiencing hardship themselves - but we have lots of extra expenses with the COVID-19 lockdown. We are trying our best to stretch our budget and make it work.”

To support Awhina House, email hi@awhinahouse.org.nz

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