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Claims of rapes, robberies of South Auckland homeless forced into central city

Jessie Chiang of rnz.co.nz

Claims of rapes and robberies of homeless people who were moved out of South Auckland has advocacy groups desperate to have them return from the central city.

The group United We Stand Waka of Caring said the majority of the homeless in Manurewa and Manukau had been moved on by authorities in the past few months.

Debbie Munroe had been helping the group for the last seven years and said while there were normally up to 50 homeless people there, they had been pushed out of the area.

"A lot had moved on to Manukau because they were sick and tired of getting trespassed and it just continued and continued," she said.

"One day they just all left because they were over being trespassed, it was just crazy."

Ms Munroe said the homeless went to Hayman Park in Manukau, then to Puhinui Park, then back to Manukau at the Burger King restaurant there.

They were moved on wherever they went, she said, and with no other option they went into the central city.

It soon became clear they were not welcome there either.

"One of the guys made a comment about one of the girls being raped, he had been raped, two of the boys had been beaten up and their stuff had been stolen. [They said] this was a continuous thing in town and they wanted to come home," she said.

Debbie Munroe of United We Stand Waka of Caring homeless support groupDebbie Munroe of United We Stand Waka of Caring homeless support group Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang
Stephanie Pollard has been volunteering for three years with the group Feed the Homeless Auckland who work in the central city, providing food and clothing to those in need.

She noticed the arrival of the Manurewa and Manukau homeless at the start of last month.

"As you can imagine, the influx of any number of new homeless people puts tension on the streets so they were keeping out of the way, they were keeping their heads down," she said.

"They weren't coming forward to get food and clothing or they were sending one or two people down and then they were telling us there were more of them around."

Ms Pollard said it was heartbreaking to talk to them.

"They're sad, they're lost, some of them are quite afraid and a lot of them are just quite broken," she said.

"One gentleman said to me 'I want to go home, I know my home doesn't have a roof but I want to go home, I want to go back to South Auckland - that is my home, that is my community'."

Debbie Munroe is calling for a drop in centre in Manurewa, not just for homeless but for anyone who needs a hot meal or just someone to talk to.

She said there were people in the community willing to jump in and help - they just needed funding to pay for a building lease and the power.

"Got another person who wants to do some numeracy and literacy and teach them how to survive once they do get into a house," she said.

"We think that's some of the problem - they're getting thrown into houses and they're failing because they don't know how to cook, they don't know how to pay bills, they've lost the basic instinct of how to survive."

Ms Munroe said the homeless were moved out by the police after complaints from the Manurewa Local board and businesses in the area.

Police said they asked rough sleepers to move on only when there was public disorder or complaints about anti-social behaviour - usually at the request of businesses.

They said officers worked to ensure they were referred to get the help they needed.

Manurewa Local Board chair Angela Dalton said the board had not complained about the homeless and quite the opposite, welcomed them.

She said a lot of them left the area when a bus shelter at Manukau City opened up during winter last year.

There were Housing First initiatives in Manurewa ready to help those in need if they returned, she said.

But she could not promise that the local board would be able to fund a drop in centre.

"In terms of looking after our community groups and sporting groups and everyone else that local government is asked to take care of, our budget is stretched over that," she said.

Ms Munroe will be making her case in front of the local board for a drop in centre in just over a week.

Homeless person (file picture).
File picture. Source: Supplied