An Auckland barrister is behind a new night shelter for homeless people being built and opened before winter.
Queen Street in the central city is often dotted with people begging and sleeping rough all year round. Many of them have mental health and addiction problems related to drug and alcohol use.
Jo Wickliffe is used to defending people who cannot do it for themselves, including homeless people and the night shelter initiative is another strand of her advocacy work.
A trust called NEST (Night Emergency Shelter Trust) has been formed and a Board of Trustees established which includes high profile members such as Judge Grant Fraser and Michelle Kidd (QSM) who are both advocates for the homeless.
While the Queen Street homeless are the visual part of the problem, Ms Wickliffe says there are many others who are living and sleeping in areas that many people would be less aware of.
“Often you won’t see the long term homeless people. They’re not on Queen Street. They’re hidden in places where they can’t be easily found. Some are sleeping in bushes at Albert Park. I know of a man who sleeps in rubbish skips. I know of a pregnant woman sleeping rough and another woman with two children who was sleeping near the Auckland District Court. She had her children on mattresses with a duvet. It’s a terrible situation for anyone to be in,” she says.
The Trust has secured a three storey building for the Night Shelter on Nelson Street in the central business district, and they have a project manager who’ll deal with resource consent issues and the fit out of the premises.
The first floor will be for men and can sleep 80 people. The second floor will be for women and will cater for 40 people. There’ll also be security guards on duty each evening.
“The security is to ensure the safety of all who are sleeping at the shelter. They’re not safe on the street and need to feel safe at the shelter. There will also be a building manager who lives on site,” she says.
Ms Wickliffe says homeless people who want a bed for the night at NEST will have to handover any drugs, alcohol or weapons such as knives that might be in their possession.
“They won’t get these items back. Along with their bags, each person will be searched to ensure they are not a threat to the safety of other people at the shelter,” she says.
The night shelter doors will open at 8: pm and people will be expected to leave the building by 8: am the following morning.
Ms Wickliffe says the shelter will complement the Auckland City Mission redevelopment.
“This facility is not being built to compete with it. It’s going to be there to support it. They’re not going to build a night shelter in their new facility. That’s not a criticism as they’re doing other great things for homeless people including providing food,” she says.
While the night shelter is on target to open before winter, the Trust will appeal for corporate funding, ‘Givealittle’ crowd funding, along with applying for Auckland City Council and Government support.
Ms Wickliffe is also encouraging other lawyers to get involved in the Trust on a pro-bono basis.
“We need an employment specialist because we’ll be hiring a general manager. We also need a lawyer with expertise in public liability and contract law. We need them now,” she says.
Lawyers that are keen to contribute their time can contact barrister Jo Wickliffe at firstname.lastname@example.org