Meet the Tauranga woman who turned her backpackers into safe emergency housing for whānau

A Tauranga woman has turned her backpackers into a safe place for whānau to call home.

After COVID-19 destroyed Memphis Robson-Frentz's backpacker business, she set out to create emergency housing with a difference.

Aroha House is a safe place that focuses on well-being to give whānau with children a roof over their heads.

There is 24-hour security and a strict no drug and alcohol policy.

"I think the difference between us and other spaces doing emergency housing is we are communal. We have a family per room but they are sharing the facilities and having to engage with each other," Robson-Frentz told The Project.

The demand is huge, with around 50 families coming and going in 18 months.

Robson-Frentz said there are whānau who don't have very good backstories at the home, including families with gang affiliations, drug addiction, mental health problems or had their houses sold out from under them and have nowhere to go.

"I've never seen homelessness like this," Robson-Frentz said. "You've got families living in tents and cars, and I'm talking not one or two but dozens."

Two years on and the tourists may be heading back, but Aroha House is staying on its new path.

"I'm big-hearted… When they start trusting to tell you their story, and some of those stories have been horrific, I can't go back to tourism," Robson-Frentz said. "I have to have some kind of positive influence in these people's lives somehow, some way."

Watch the full interview with Memphis Robson-Frentz above.