Donate to those sleeping under the stars

Operations coordinator Rose Kent wants more sleeping bags and tents to keep Under the Stars dinner guests warm this winter. Photo; John Borren.


A community group which feeds people from all walks of life twice weekly in Tauranga is running a campaign to collect sleeping bags and tents to keep our most vulnerable residents warm this winter.

Under the Stars offers a hot meal to all who arrive at the Cliff Rd hall in the city at 12 noon Thursdays and 5pm Saturdays without judgment.

But as winter creeps in, the number of people needing a meal and life’s necessities creeps up, says Under the Stars spokesperson Ani Stace.

“I would say since Covid, the need [for our service] has increased,” says Ani.

“We had a dramatic increase of need during Covid because people were isolated – but post-Covid numbers are higher...We now cater 120 to 140 meals a week.”

Ani says Under the Stars predominantly works with the homeless or people living in their cars or in transitional, emergency housing – “but our services are available to anyone with food insecurities”.

“So anyone that needs a meal is welcome to come to Cliff Rd hall on Thursdays or Saturdays – everything we do is without judgment of circumstances. You just turn up and you receive some food.”

Under the Stars was born in 2014 by a lady called Liz Kite.

“She started off with a plastic picnic table in the middle of town, giving out food she had available. We moved to Cliff Rd hall about 2016 – and we’ve been doing two meals a week ever since – so it’s our 10th anniversary this year.”

More than food

Ani says many don’t realise the service is more than just about food.

“We fill people’s tummies, we give out toiletries and free hot showers at the hall but we also give people a moment of social connection. They can ask us for anything they need – if we have it, we will offer it. And it is done in a non-judgmental way,” says Ani.

“It’s often people that live in the shadows that don’t want themselves seen that are afraid to ask – because people that are living on the fringes of society, they quite often want to stay that way. So when you start asking for help you’re identified as someone in need – you’re seen, you’re on a radar.

“Whereas we deal with a lot of people who don’t want to be on anyone’s radar. So we just offer support but also we have a connection with our guests.”

Ani says Tauranga City has young people who are third-generation homeless – “they know nothing else”.

“But I think they feel seen at our meals. They have a name, we know them and we treat them as guests – we call them our guests. We serve their needs. We give them the opportunity to be as connected as they want.”

Often people come to Under the Stars when they are newly homeless, have not long been on the streets, and don’t have anything to keep warm.

“We quite often have young people turn up with literally the clothes on their back – so if we can give them a small tent and sleeping bag at least we know they gain some shelter for the night. So this is an annual need for our organisation.”


Alongside their usual guests, Ani says the service is now seeing many elderly people who may own or rent their own home but “who don’t have enough food for three meals a day, seven days a week”.

“We are very protein-focused. We ensure we have meat in every main and lots of vegetables. We also offer fruit. We make sure it is a balanced meal because many people are just eating what they have – and that is not good for their constitutions as such. So people come to us just to get that balanced healthy meal, twice a week, and it gets them through the week.”

And winter heralds more people heading to Under the Stars.

“Yep definitely; we see more people, the use of our showers increases, the need for a hot meal increases, the need for shelter increases. The need for clean, dry clothing increases.

“A lot of these people can only carry what they use for a couple of days so the turnover of what they need is quite high – especially in winter when they can’t get things to dry.”


As such the winter campaign asks for donations of good-condition sleeping bags, tents, warm winter jackets, beanies, warm socks and brand-new underwear.

“We go through five to 10 sleeping bags a week if we have them on hand. Because if you’ve got a young family in a car, one sleeping bag for each child is not going to be enough.”

People who want to make donations can contact Under the Stars on their Facebook page, email: or phone: 022 379 6371.

“Also we’re in desperate need of volunteers to help with anything from laundry to meal prep and service to clean-up, to join the roster at the hall on Thursdays or Saturdays.”


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