The Auckland City Mission has been busier than ever over the past two years of the pandemic. But it hopes its new building, HomeGround, will transform the way it helps the most vulnerable people in our country’s biggest city.

It’s been a decade in the making, but the Auckland City Mission – Te Tāpui Atawhai’s new home – HomeGround – has finally opened its doors.

A one-stop shop for health and social services for the city’s most vulnerable people, the purpose-built, nine-storey building has a health centre, a pharmacy, a community dining room, specialist detox services and apartments.

Auckland City Missioner Helen Robinson says HomeGround is the realisation of a long-held dream.

“We can begin to do what we have longed to do, in the manner in which we have longed to do it, with the resources to support us,” she says.

“HomeGround makes so much more possible, we can do more and better.”

From today, people will start moving into the 80 brand-new apartments and Robinson says for many of them, this will be the first time in a long time that they’ve had a permanent place to call home.

The Auckland City Mission is a community housing provider, so the residents will be paying rent to live there.

“This is literally a roof over someone’s head. This is a fridge, a washing machine, a dryer, a shower and a kitchen – a place that’s secure where the doors lock, where people know that they’re safe and a place that’s theirs.”

But there’s much more to it than that, Robinson says.

“When there is that deep sense of safety as human beings we can rest and we can begin to be our best selves, we can begin to address the challenges in front of us and we can even begin to thrive.”

The apartment residents will also have access to a communal lounge and a rooftop garden, which Robinson hopes will help build a real sense of community.

For people going through medical or social detox at HomeGround, Robinson says easy access to the on-site health centre and pharmacy, as well as other support, means they can provide a much more integrated service.

There will be 25 beds available across the addiction withdrawal services.

Over the past two years, with Covid-19, demand for the Auckland City Mission’s services has ramped up dramatically.

“The increase in the demand for food in the time I’ve been at the mission, which is just on nine years, is extraordinary,” Robinson says.

“It’s deeply, deeply distressing the numbers of people [coming in] for food.”

Robinson says there are hundreds of thousands of people across the country who don’t have enough money to buy enough good kai for their families.

“It is reprehensible and should never, ever be occurring – certainly not in Aotearoa.”

Robinson also worries about the impact of the Omicron outbreak on those in the most desperate need.

“I’m worried about more people losing their jobs, I’m worried about more people being sick, I’m worried about people not having access to kai.”

Of particular concern to her are people who are vulnerably housed, in boarding houses or motels.

“Being sick in this reality, when you have such a lack of access to resources is incredibly difficult.”

Despite that looming sense of dread, Robinson remains optimistic – and the Auckland City Mission is better placed than ever to help the people coming through its doors.

“I’m always hopeful. In the face of desperation, I’m called to be hopeful,” Robinson says.

Government, Auckland Council, Auckland DHB, Foundation North, companies and members of the public have all contributed to the $110 million cost to build HomeGround.

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