Street Kai is coming to the end of their third winter of feeding hungry stomachs every Monday night at the Willow St bus stop.
Founder Tracey Carlton says since the project started in 2017 she has seen an alarming increase in people showing up for a hot meal and a cuppa.
“In the first winter, we probably had about 20 peeps showing up for kai. Then in 2018, we had a solid team of nine vollies and a maximum of 60 people coming for food. We could handle the jandal.
“But this winter, this is nuts. We have had more than 100 people showing up consistently since the beginning of the season – the difference is absolutely unbelievable.”
She says the consistent increase shows the vulnerable community in Tauranga is suffering massively and basic needs are not being met.
Volunteer Pip Brooke says she is concerned that their numbers are only going to get bigger over the next year.
“It’s sad to see the numbers are not getting any smaller, and I think this is only the beginning because there is no immediate solution.”
Street Kai has always cared for rough sleepers in Tauranga, however, this winter a range of people in different living situations are coming for kai.
“We will always care for our core rough sleepers, but now we are looking after so many working homeless and working poor who are living in a whare but struggling to pay the bills,” says Tracey.
A young family living in their car with three infants aged one, two and three have recently started coming each week.
“This is what we are experiencing and it is heartbreaking – we are doing our darndest between toiletries, clothing and warm, warm kit to help this family out.”
Tracey reinforces that Street Kai is an inclusive meal and for absolutely anybody who needs support.
“Everyone is welcome. Working people that are housed are very welcome to come for dinner, many people are struggling to pay normal bills that we all pay.”
Street Kai is currently working with the newly established Tauranga Moana Aunties on a wellness hub for the vulnerable community.
Pip hopes that this building would enable the initiative to provide kai daily and extend their services to showers, laundry and more.
For more information on how to support Street Kai, visit: www.streetkai.org/ or search ‘Street Kai’ on Facebook.