National | Housing

Te Puea Marae hopes to transform approach to transitional housing

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Te Puea Marae is setting a new standard of delivery in transitional housing.

Manaaki Tangata E Rua is New Zealand’s first marae-based transitional housing programme and whānau engaging with Te Puea are experiencing transformative results.

Te Puea Marae lead social worker Whitiao Paul says the majority of families involved in Manaaki Tangata e Rua have achieved mana motuhake (self-sustainability).

“One hundred and two of our whānau have been housed with the right support mechanisms in place and we’re building an additional 10 transitional units on our marae to grow our support capacity.”

Bringing whānau back to their marae

According to figures released by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development more than $600 million was spent on transitional housing accommodation alone in 2021.

Due to supply and demand issues, thousands of families across the country have been forced to stay in hotels and motels for extended periods of time.

'People listened and talked to me'

Despite offerings of inter-agency support, many Māori whānau choose to disengage with agencies due to complex and invasive processes.

One south Auckland mother told researchers her engagement with Te Puea was the first time she hadn’t felt judged for seeking support.

“It felt like it was the first time people listened and talked to me. The marae had a set routine and at 8.30 pm the kids had to be in bed. That’s what the rules were there. My kids have learnt a lot of things there. They’ve learned to be nice to each other and help out with things.”

Since opening its doors to the homeless in 2016, Te Puea Marae has continued to advocate for transformative change in the housing sector.

A partnership forged with Ngā Wai A Te Tūī Māori and Indigenous Research Centre has helped the marae capture vital data, demonstrating the benefits of its approach.

'Physical and spiritual wellbeing'

Ngā Wai A Te Tūī director Professor Jenny Lee-Morgan says the evidence compiled identifies pivotal ways of thinking about marae and their ability to support communities.

“The contribution our marae provide in serving our whānau and addressing homelessness has seen compelling shifts for whānau in their physical and spiritual wellbeing.”

Families from diverse cultures who’ve experienced the meaningful support provided by Te Puea have shared their experiences with researchers.

A Pākehā mother of three who had been living in her car says, “At first it was really scary because I didn’t know what to expect and I’ve never been in that situation. As soon as we got the cabin we had, it was just like, 'I could breathe!' We had somewhere that we could call home.”

'Our family now'

A Tuvalu father of three says, even after leaving the marae, the support and connection stays strong.

“The marae supported us to get a home and here we have a new home. The kids are happy they have their own room now in our home. Te Puea Marae still supports us with food and to my wife and my daughter driving lessons, so they still support our family, our family now.”

The model championed by Manaaki Tangata E Rua was recently highlighted as a prime example of rangatiratanga at the sixth International Indigenous Voices Symposium in Social Work.

New Zealand has the third-highest rate of homelessness in the OECD and Whitiao says if transformative change isn’t prioritised, nothing will change.

Manaaki Tangata E Rua guides whānau through a series of healing stages embedded in te ao Māori.