Family living under bridge inspires fundraising dinner

A 13-year-old who was sleeping under a bridge with his family in a van inspired his schoolmate to raise money for the Bay of Plenty's growing homeless crisis.

When Kauri Noble, 13, found out one of his mates lived in a van with his sister and parents under a bridge at Wairoa river, Te Puna, he was so upset and moved that he told his mother Luana Noble that he wanted to do something to help.

"He was shocked to learn that a friend of his was living in a van. Because it was someone he knew it really brought it home to him how bad the situation is for some people. It is bad enough that kids go to school hungry, but for school kids to be living under a bridge, it is just not good enough."

Together with her 22-year-old daughter Kristen Nopera and family friend Hemi Ormsby on Saturday night Ms Noble hosted a three course dinner and auction at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic to raise money for the Whare 4 Whanau project which houses up to three families for up to ten weeks in two houses on The Strand gifted by the Tauranga Moana Maori Trust.

Ms Noble had studied to be a chef at the polytechnic but said it had been challenging for the three of them to cook for 80 guests, serving sophisticated fare such as sichuan fried squid, venison carpaccio and sauted chorizo with whipped feta.

80 guests dined attended the dinner and auction.  Photo: Andrew Warner.

80 guests dined attended the dinner and auction. Photo: Andrew Warner.

The auction which included donated items such as New Year's Eve flights to Melbourne, One Love tickets and a mystery weekend raised more than $2500 for Te Tuinga Whanau.

Tommy Kapai, head of Te Tuinga Whanau Support Service which funds the houses, said it was heartening to see the community continue to raise awareness of the region's homeless and it was particularly heartening that the event had been inspired by a school kid looking out for a mate.

"If we continue to ignore the warning signs we will have a tsunami of homeless next winter. Now is the time to act and our local leaders must front foot the solutions by motivating a caring community such as Luana and her kai aroha whanau," he said.

Event MC Charlie Rahiri of Ngati Ranginui iwi told dinner guests that the Tauranga community shouldn't close its eyes to the Bay's homeless crisis evidenced by sights such as the rows of cars on Waikareao estuary.

"If you walk past there early morning you will see mothers with their babies, that is where they are sleeping."

Since July, Judea marae, Huria Marae - He Rourou Aroha had opened its doors to homeless Bay residents offering them kai, showers and laundry facilities.

The marae's Kirsty Willison told the Bay of Plenty Times that just last week a mother and three children turned up at the door.

"We were her last resort, she had nowhere to go."

Ms Willison said the marae had accommodated the family in one of its trust buildings.

Meanwhile, the family of four who had inspired the dinner have since been moved into accommodation, assisted by Te Tuinga Whanau Support Service.