Auckland cafe helping homeless issues plea for help after being hit hard by COVID-19

Cafe manager Manu Kahlon.
Cafe manager Manu Kahlon. Photo credit: Supplied by Merge Cafe

An Auckland cafe that supports people experiencing homelessness is issuing a desperate plea for help after being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Merge Cafe on Karangahape Road, which is run by the Lifewise Trust, provides subsidised meals for people who are homeless, as well as guidance and advocacy.

However, the cafe has been struggling financially since February 2020, when the pandemic took off.

Merge Cafe on Karangahape Road.
Merge Cafe on Karangahape Road. Photo credit: Supplied by Merge Cafe

Lockdowns have closed the cafe several times, it had to cancel its major annual fundraiser and it lost a major grant funder.

"All of those things aren't happening," cafe manager Manu Kahlon tells Newshub. 

"Plus the ongoing construction work on K Road is affecting us as well - big time. We also used to have a lot of businesspeople around us, office workers. They would come in and support us… but not most of them are working from home. It's put a lot of strain on revenue. All of these put together since the 2020 [March] lockdown - it's getting a bit out of hand at the moment."

The cafe is now losing around $13,000 each month, and they are asking for donations from the public to stay afloat.

"We're used to tight budgets, but what we're seeing now is terrifying," the cafe says.

The cafe needs to raise $60,000 by the end of March.

Lifewise currently has donors who have pledged to match any donations, so if someone donates $10, the donors will also donate another $10.

Kahlon says it also comes at a time when they are seeing an increase in people experiencing homelessness, many as a result of COVID-19-related issues and the housing crisis.

"I've seen a lot of new faces, especially young faces."

He says he is trying to keep positive, but if the cafe shuts, it will leave the community "devastated".

Any donations made by March 31 will be matched. Donations can be made here.