Rotorua charity tackles the housing crisis

Gina Peiffer has helped hundreds of people into homes, out of a makeshift office in her modest rental home.

The 53-year-old says that she always had a soft spot for "bringing home the strays", so it was no surprise when she and her husband set up local charity Love Soup Rotorua.

The charity started three years ago feeding homeless a dinner every night, and it's all done for love, because there's a need.

"I just don't get it - when do people stop caring about people?" Gina says.

In the last 18 months they have adapted to their client's changing needs.

"People started coming to us and saying, 'do you have sleeping bags, do you have blankets, do you have clothes', and finally one of them came to us and said, 'Can you get me a house?'"

Rotorua now has the second-highest rate of homelessness in the country, and Gina says what's happening here is a direct result of Auckland's over-heated property market.

"You can get 1.5 times what your house is worth, the Auckland buyers are coming and buying those houses and not returning them to the rental market, they're living in them, so that stock of rental housing we had is diminished by quite a lot."

Gina believes there is a real shortage of emergency housing currently in Rotorua.

Associate Minister of Social Housing Alfred Ngaro says his team in Rotorua are working hard to open up more housing.

"We've got 37 places we want to bring online, at the moment there are seven, existing transitional, emergency housing that are there," says Mr Ngaro.

At the end of 2016 there were 87 applications for people needing social housing in Rotorua. Out of those, only 11 stated that they were homeless.

Love Soup Rotorua boasts a 98 percent success rate in finding homes for those who have fallen through the cracks.

"I can pull out all the files of the people we've housed in the last year and a half and it's over 100," says Gina. "The files I've got for people that we've housed for this year alone, that's well over 20 already."

Patrick Perston was living in a car after he lost his job and his relationship ended. With Gina's help, they found him a two-bedroom unit - and it's changed his life.

"I can pull out all the files of the people we've housed in the last year and a half and it's over 100. The files

Gina's fed-up with Government organisations and NGOs who are paid to help vulnerable families not doing their job, relying on unpaid providers to do the work for them.

"They all just sit back and go, 'Do you need help in housing? Go and see Love Soup. You need support with this or advocacy? Go see Love Soup.' Why does it come back on our shoulders? If they want to give me some of their funding, I'm quite happy to take their clients."

But Gina and her husband have decided after they deal with their current clients, they won't be taking on any more homeless clients.

They don't have the resources to cope with the increasing demand for their help.

"What are those agencies doing and what are they providing? Who's going to be there providing for those families? I don't know who's going to help them."

The Hui

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