Alcove gives sleepers shelter from winter's chill

Fast asleep, wrapped tightly in blankets in the entrance to the Westpac building in George St, Dunedin, on the coldest morning of the year yesterday are two rough sleepers. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Fast asleep, wrapped tightly in blankets in the entrance to the Westpac building in George St, Dunedin, on the coldest morning of the year yesterday are two rough sleepers. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
On the coldest morning of the year yesterday, two people lay wrapped in blankets fast asleep on the freezing tiles at the entrance of a central Dunedin office building.

Early-rising office workers glanced down at the sleeping pair, then continued on as they strode into the Westpac building the corner of George St and Moray Pl about 7.30am.

A Westpac spokesman said the company was aware of several people who regularly slept in the alcove, although the area was a shared entrance for all building tenants and was not owned by the company.

''We have raised the subject of their welfare with the [Dunedin City Council] and police, and we understand police are conducting welfare checks.''

Dunedin Night Shelter Trust chairman Rob Thomson said dozens of people slept rough in the city, including in doorways and in the bush in the Dunedin Town Belt.

The shelter had 12 beds but would always find room for those in need, he said.

However, some people were excluded from the night shelter for previous violent behaviour, while others did not go there because alcohol and drugs were banned.

Others were too proud to use the shelter, while some people avoided it because of their mental health problems, Dr Thomson said.

''Many of the people need to be in fulltime care, but there just aren't the places.''

Salvation Army Dunedin ministry leader David McKenzie said while there was huge pressure on housing in the city, he believed the accessibility of emergency housing had improved. ''There's tremendous pressure on housing, no question about that.

''But there's also been, compared with 18 months ago, a big increase of accessibility of emergency and transitional housing.''

The shortage of housing across the country, and especially housing of a decent quality for low-income people, was especially pronounced in Dunedin, he said.

george.block@odt.co.nz

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