News | 26 May 2022

Te Wāhi Āwhina: Supporting people every day

What used to be a regular spot for rough sleepers, is now a well-known community support base connecting people up with the social services they need.

Over the past year, hundreds of people have come through the doors of Te Wāhi Āwhina seeking support for a manner of things including housing, employment, mental health, and wellbeing. 

Te Wāhi Āwhina, which is located next to the Opera House across from Te Aro Park, opened its doors for the first time in May 2021 as part of The Pōneke Promise – a joint commitment to improving safety in the central city. 

Previously, people needing support had to travel around the city and neighbouring suburbs to figure out which providers would be best to support their needs. In many cases, people would be met with lengthy waiting times, only to be directed elsewhere.

With Te Wāhi Āwhina, service seekers can find out their options and the team can provide access to what they need. The Kaiāwhina, Taina Puloka and Sa Manu, are ready to help with things like securing appointments and communication between organisations. 

“As Kaiāwhina, our key role is to listen to people, advise on options that may be suitable, then action some tangible steps for that person," says Taina. "It’s not unusual for people to come in overwhelmed or unsure of what help they can get. Giving people some time, not making them feel rushed and letting them know what we’re here for is key."

Over the last 12 months the top requests were accommodation, employment and connecting with mental health and wellbeing support services. 

Mural in Te Wahi Awhina.

By working quickly and closely with partners and local providers, Kaiāwhina recently helped a woman access all the essentials, says Taina. 

“Displaced from her home city and recovering from injuries, the woman had contacted a few other support services but was unsure of where to go next, so she was directed to our space. One week later she was back to thank us for our help that day. She was welcomed by a local non-governmental organisation (NGO) providing accommodation for women and was recovering well. She felt safe and was set to see a social worker as well as receiving counselling.” 

It’s outcomes and partnerships like this that Kaiāwhina Taina says makes the role really rewarding. 

On top of visits from service seekers, there have been over 240 visits from service providers, helping Te Wāhi Āwhina to meet the community’s needs. These connections have been growing stronger over the year, with Ministry of Social Development (MSD) now offering integrated services twice a week. 

The Salvation Army Outreach team, and Tuatahi Services also have a presence at Te Wāhi Āwhina. Pastor Joe, of the Salvation Army, holds strong mana in the community and plays a key role in building trusted relationships with service seekers.  

“Without our partners we wouldn’t be able to act as quickly as we would like. We look forward to building more partnerships to better our service and provide time-saving solutions for those who are also serving our Wellington city communities,” says Taina. 

One year on, Te Wāhi Āwhina is contributing to positive change on Manners Street by adding another layer of capable guardianship. More eyes on the park and the connection with CCTV, Hāpai Ake and the Police means issues are dealt with quickly. The presence of this support base has meant that local businesses have gained confidence, experienced fewer issues and feel much more positive about operating in the area.  

Find out more about the services provided through Te Wāhi Āwhina, or read more about the work being done through The Pōneke Promise