A Nelson charity is “appalled” by bolstered efforts to host freedom campers rather than the city’s homeless.
Published in TV NZ
A new temporary site’s been set up in the CBD for tourists to enjoy a range of free services during the day, including hot showers, toilets, wi-fi, a charging station, waste disposal and a place to relax.
One visitor from the USA told 1 NEWS it “would be awesome if it was all around New Zealand, cause it would make living out of a van a lot easier”.
Nelson City Councillor Tim Skinner says there has been an obvious influx of freedom camping in Nelson and the overuse of public facilities.
But a Government grant of nearly $257,000 has enabled the council to convert a former petrol station into the hub, alongside other “responsible camping” initiatives.
The free services are just the kind that those caring for the homeless have spent a year asking for.
Charitable agency The Male Room director Philip Chapman says there seems to be far more emphasis put “on freedom campers than what we do for our homeless”.
“I just think that’s appalling,” he says.
The hub is open to anyone, but is currently only a temporary space.
“The point is that this town needs a day centre for the homeless,” says Dave Jolley, who has spent many years living on the streets.
Mr Chapman wants “something the guys can come and say, ‘This is our place and it’s here, it’s not gonna get moved next month’.”
He already has a space in mind at the charity’s premises.
“It’s central in Nelson, but it’s also got a park, and we don’t have residential people either side so it’s the perfect spot really to have something put in.”
While Government funding can be applied for to better cater for tourists, there’s no similar fund for the homeless.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development says it’s just launched its Housing First programme in Nelson, with the goal to end homelessness – not just manage it.
Nelson City Council says it’ll consider what more it can do to support those in need.
In the meantime, Mr Skinner says he welcomes anyone to use the camping hub’s facilities.
“If people are living rough and want somewhere where they can shower and shave, sit down and relax or charge their phones up, it’s money well spent.”
By Kaitlin Ruddock
Published in TV NZ
17 January 2020