The issue of homelessness, often seen in wider West Auckland is now touching even Te Atatu town centre, but the Te Atatu Union Church has found a way to connect with the homeless, while warming their bellies at the same time.
Reverend Wayne Toleafoa says Soup and Bun Friday is a new initiative operating in the church foyer from 10 to noon on Fridays, attracting a small group of up to seven who come to enjoy soup and buns in the warmth of the church.
Volunteers from the congregation make two types of soup – a meat based one and a vegetarian option, and other volunteers help serve up. The group is also offered blankets and clothes from the church op shop.
He says the church is only interested in reaching the people in the Te Atatu community, rather than those in wider West Auckland.
“But we don’t just want to feed them,” he says “we want to build up a relationship with these people. We invite them to come for soup and buns on a Friday and if we need to, we can put them in touch with a social worker who can help them with housing, budgeting or any other issue they need help with.”
Wayne says in this way, the church is working with the support of Care Waitakere, so they can make that connection with services. He says sometimes homeless people have already gone to agencies before and for whatever reason they have ended up back on the street.
“Some homeless have addictions that have taken them down that road,” he says “and they are no longer wanted at home. Everyone has tried their best but they can’t give up their addiction. It can really tear the guts out of a family.”
Wayne says they have to reach out for that treatment themselves, but that often only happens when the court orders treatment.
He says the Union Church is in a good position to help with this community issue as they are central to the village and willing to work in with other churches in the area, to tackle the problem.