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Belated first birthday party for Awhina House

Celebrating Awhina House’s first birthday are Angela Wallace, Delwyn Rowan, Crystal Baker and Anna Young. Photo: Daniel Hines.

Awhina House staff blew out the candles at a belated first birthday party this week, celebrating the ‘community mahi’ that has enabled the shelter to support vulnerable women in Tauranga over the past year.

About 100 people came together at Holy Trinity Church Hall for the celebration on Wednesday evening, including the city’s mayor Tenby Powell and Tauranga MP’s.

Awhina House general manager Angela Wallace says despite having a ‘birthday bubble party’ during lockdown, the team wanted to acknowledge every single person that has helped the shelter since it was first established.

"We just want to reflect, show some thanks and celebrate that we are here. There is a place for homeless women to go in Tauranga now – where they can be safe, find their feet and journey on into their own accommodation."

To date, about 52 women have resided at the shelter.

Angela says right now they have a ‘full house’, along with a waiting list of women needing support from the shelter.

Demand for their services has jumped in the wake of COVID-19, she says.

“There is a bigger need since COVID-19 – there is more homelessness out there, there are more people in really hard situations."

This includes redundancies, deterioration of family relationships and domestic violence, she says.

“We are definitely seeing a higher volume of referrals and we trying to do our best for people.”

The biggest struggle for Awhina House is the lack of permanent housing available in Tauranga.

“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.

“There is a bottleneck by the lack of rental housing. We are full and rental housing options are slim.”

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.”

Awhina House is alive and thriving thanks to support from generous individuals and organisations, says Angela.

“The community mahi from every single person and organisation has helped support our ladies so well.”

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