On the 5th of August, our Naenae-Epuni parish whānau opened a new drop-in centre in the centre of Naenae. Called Te Puna Manawa, meaning “oasis,” the centre aims to support the street community who gather in Hillary Court. Homelessness and unemployment are big issues in Naenae, with obvious problems resulting.
The Priest in Charge of the parish, Archdeacon Martin Robinson, says that Te Puna Manawa has opened in response to a specific community need, but has also been a dream of the St David’s Naenae community for several years – a dream to get a daily prayerful presence in the heart of Naenae.
“The Naenae community has been struggling to know how to respond to a specific group of people who are seen as ‘trouble-makers’ by business owners and community leaders in the Naenae shopping area, Hillary Court. Several of us at St David’s had already been praying about a response to the sense of struggle in that centre. We already knew many of the folks gathering down there, but wanted to do more to support and include them. This became our opportunity to respond, but we just needed a real sense of green light to go ahead.”
“After consulting a range of locals and agencies about the rightness of such an initiative, we just needed the right space for the right price. Then, out of the blue, a shop owner in Hillary Court offered us her space. We had a good team to make this happen, so it suddenly became ‘game on’! St David’s got right behind the project, offering tangible support in all kinds of ways. Our genius logistics man, Tim Dunwoodie, whipped us into shape and oversaw a project that began on the 1st of July and was opened on the 5th of August. It’s now a beautiful space!”
Martin continues: “We see it as crucial to get a prayerful presence in the centre of Naenae, and to offer a tangible loving response to brothers and sisters who are clearly struggling and have no place to call ‘home’ currently. Now they have somewhere safe, friendly and welcoming – and they can become part of the team, as some of them have already.”
Te Puna Manawa is led by a core group of Tim Dunwoodie, Marisa Matthews, Damian White, Rev Alison and Ven Martin Robinson. The core value is manaakitanga – kindness, hospitality and care for others, which is of course exemplified in the love and welcome of Christ. It currently opens five days a week between 11-2pm with a simple lunch and plenty of activities on site. The first week of activity has already justified its existence, with good numbers checking out the set up.
St David’s also uses the space for morning prayers on weekdays, and on Sunday evenings, they have a small church space (Tumanako Hou) focusing on the street community, who gather for an emerging sense of whānau, to share waiata, karakia, teaching and kai.
The centre is currently in a pilot phase. Martin says “we are very grateful for some start-up funding but if it looks like Te Puna Manawa really is meeting an important ongoing need, then St David’s will be looking for ongoing funding to enable it to continue and build on the work and relationships already happening. In the near future, we are anticipating adding specific services to target needs such as employment support, housing, budgeting and other relevant skills.”