by ROWENA OREJANA
AUCKLAND — A young mum had just given birth and was leaving hospital with nowhere to go. A 14-year old girl caught trains and buses at night to keep safe. A man lived in his car for about two years.
These are people who find their way to the “tiny houses” of the Island Child Charitable Trust in Panmure.
Danielle Bergin, a former homeless person herself, told NZ Catholic that Island Child Charitable Trust provides a crisis response, giving immediate care and support for families who find themselves with nowhere to go.
“It’s about moving people from crisis, assessing the issues as to what created the crisis, recognising and helping with their dreams and aspirations. Also walking the journey with them so they are never alone,” said Ms Bergin.
But more than that, she said, “We mend broken people. We are very holistic here. We believe in the mind, body and spirit. We believe in the work of Our Lord. We believe in the Holy Spirit. We find that the Holy Spirit guides people to us.”
The trust’s strong Catholic background comes from Ms Bergin’s strong Catholic foundation. Educated in Catholic schools, she said the values that she learned had totally influenced her work for the underprivileged.
Her own experiences in her twenties when she hit a troubled patch also allowed her to understand what it is the people she helps need.
“We find they arrive here with minimal support. They’ve fallen through the gaps. Often [there is] no agency support and very limited family support,” she said.
They stay in the accommodation for six to eight weeks until a Housing New Zealand unit or a suitable private rental can be found for them. They are also put in touch with various support groups that can help them stay out of the crisis they are in.
Ms Bergin lamented the lack of funding available for groups working with the homeless. Most of those groups are Catholic organisations. In east Auckland, the trust is the only provider of this service.
“There’s one wish and one dream that we are putting out there: that the Lord will help and provide,” she said. “I can’t find enough funding. We do this without any government contract funding, no Ministry of Social Development funding.”
Fortunately, the trust was able to find help from the Catholic Caring Foundation.
The foundation provides grants to organisations like Monte Cecilia Housing Trust, De Paul House, Tryphina Refuge and other service providers that help families and communities.
Darragh O’Riordan, Catholic Caring Foundation general manager, noted that housing has become an emerging need.
“For thousands of families throughout Auckland and the Far North, finding adequate shelter is getting harder and harder. The groups with the highest need are Maori and Pacific, but in recent years there have been new groups emerging,” Ms O’Riordan said.
“One of the more prominent emerging areas of need is working families who, primarily because of redundancies or reduction in working hours, are unable to maintain housing independence,”
Ms Bergin said the trust also helps people find their way back to the Catholic Church.
“Hope is a big thing that we teach these people. Do have hope in the Lord’s work, do have hope that things are going to become better from now on,” she said.
by ROWENA OREJANA