Safety behind 'inhumane' homeless shelter closure, Rotorua Lakes Council says

A man who runs a homeless shelter in Rotorua says he's been forced to shut it down because the local council threatened it would cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars.

However, the council says that's not true.

This winter, dozens of people stayed at a shelter run by former truckie Tiny Deane, but he says the council threatened him with a $200,000 fine if he allowed people to sleep there, as the building doesn't have consent.

"[I'm] absolutely gutted," he told Newshub.

"It's inhumane. I understand when it comes to the law, but when does it come to a point where humanitarian should come in? That's just what I don't understand.

"I just really feel for these people because a lot of people think they're nothing, but everyone in this country deserves a second chance."

Mr Deane opened the shelter about two months ago, but Rotorua Lakes Council says it told him fire safety and structural reports needed to be signed off before people could sleep there.

To get around that, security guards paid by Deane repeatedly woke the homeless throughout the night.

But now he says he's been forced to shut it down, as the council threatened to fine the building owner $200,000 if anyone broke the no-sleep rule.

"I do blame myself. I opened up without a resource consent. I just believe in doing something and not talking about it."

The Rotorua Lakes Council says it must ensure vulnerable people are safe. It says it didn't force the shelter to close, but this week staff reminded Mr Deane that he needed proper consent.

It's helping him through that process, but says it's also working with the Government and other local groups to find solutions for the homeless.

Mr Deane says he'll continue to fight for the people he says have already suffered enough.


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