The James Liston Hostel, an emergency housing facility for homeless people in Auckland’s city centre, re-opened this
month after undergoing a top-to-bottom make-over, which cost more than $5 million.
James Liston Hostel Trust board chair John Metherell said the refurbishment of the 50-year-old building was largely
driven by Dame Diane Robertson, the previous board chair.
“Dame Diane came onto the board as chairperson with a vision of refurbishing the hostel that, at the time, was in a
deplorable state of disrepair — where gumboots for staff were the order of the day, due to the building suffering major leaks, causing flooding in work areas,” he said.
The upgrade increased the hostel’s capacity by seven new beds, bringing the total to 52. The roof was replaced and re-pitched. New bathrooms, a new kitchen, a modern central heating system and improved security features were added. A dedicated women’s wing was set up with swipe-cards for rooms, toilets and showers.
“Nothing was left untouched,” said Mr Metherell.
Dame Diane said there were second thoughts about having the official re-opening on June 5, due to the weather.
“[This building is] . . . for homeless people, so they don’t have to sleep on the streets in this weather. So, this weather in winter with pouring rain is actually perfect, the perfect day for us to be back in James Liston and celebrating this huge renovation,” she said.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, who spoke at the event, stressed that housing is a basic human right that needs to be extended to everybody. The Auckland Council shouldered $2 million of the total renovation cost.
“We say that our vision for Auckland is to be an inclusive city. But we look around the city and we see our failure to
include all people,” he said. The council’s official count showed 800 people sleeping rough in Auckland.
“We ought not to be satisfied until homelessness in our city is a rare and transient thing,” the mayor said.
He congratulated the board and the staff for the “fantastic work” they were doing. “This place will be a hub for social
services,” he added.
Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford said homelessness is “one of the great moral issues of our
“Somehow, as a country, we’ve forgotten how to house our people,” he said.
He said the Government is addressing the issue by allocating $197 million in the Budget to tackle homelessness, through the Housing First programme.
Mr Metherell also expressed his gratitude to refurbishment project manager John Dobrowolski and hostel manager Charlotte Ama.
Mr Metherell said Mr Dobrowolski has extensive experience and expertise in construction project management in New Zealand and Australia and he was totally committed to the project for more than a year.
“This has not been easy, by any means, as additional issues were identified during the refurbishment,” Mr Metherell said.
Mr Metherell also said the operation of the hostel is “demanding work, given the situations and issues that residents are dealing with and that require special people management skills”.
“The trust sincerely appreciates the standard of realistic and humane care that the current manager, Charlotte Ama, and her staff have shown,” he added.
Mr Metherell said the James Liston Trust was an inner city ministry set up in the 1960s through a cooperative effort involving Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist and Catholic