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For the second largest group of homeless people in New Zealand, Tiny brought big change


Tiny Deane, who established the Visions of a Helping Hand Charitable Trust, pictured at a Hikoi for the Homeless in Rotorua last week.

This time last year, Tiny Deane had never even met a homeless person.

Today, he feeds more than 100 each day at the Rotorua drop in centre he runs and houses 49 women and children across Rotorua, Taupo and soon, Tokoroa.

He's put his money where his mouth is too, selling the rental property he owned with wife Lynley and even remortgaging their family home to the tune of $40,000 to establish the Visions of a Helping Hand Charitable Trust.

Deane is talking to Stuff at the busy Rotorua Mall food court – at least during the intervals when his phone stops ringing – and laughs when asked why he's embarked on this journey.

"I don't know. Both me and my wife are still talking about it."

One root cause is almost a decade ago. That was when Deane, then a truck driver, suffered an accident that changed his life.

He said it left him lucky to be alive, and he persevered with the only job he'd ever wanted to do. 

"I just wanted to take it to the bitter end, and that came last year."

He said his surgeon, concerned about the strain the work was placing on the ankle damaged in the accident, told him straight – find another career.

Mulling his options after 30 years on the road, Deane was at home when his wife told him something shocking she had read in the newspaper.

Rotorua holds the dubious distinction of having New Zealand's second highest homeless numbers, with only Auckland topping it.

Deane decided he wanted to do something to address this, when, perversely, another incentive came his way.

"All of a sudden I had a lot of people say you can't do that. A lot of barriers put in my way, a lot."

Members of Rotorua's homeless community took their call for a night shelter direct to council at a hikoi last week.

Deane isn't the sort of person to be put off.

"I'm just a truck driver, but I thought it's just common sense isn't it? Get a building, get a feed, give them a bed."

With the creation of Visions in November 2017, Deane did just that.

However, setting up a night shelter in Rotorua had proved harder than the initial drop in centre, and the night shelter he established in Taupo.

He said he ran into a lot of red tape trying to get somewhere, especially in the winter months, for Rotorua's homeless to sleep.

Then in the wake of a hikoi for the homeless held last Monday in Rotorua, one that saw Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey and various Rotorua councillors' addressed directly by members of the homeless community, things began to move.

It's a view backed by Coffey.

"Many of us stayed after the hikoi and realised we had the capacity and passion to collectively provide whānau in need with shelter, before winter struck," he said. 

"It was in response to the hikoi, that kōrero happened."

Deane said they began offering night shelter to Rotorua's homeless last night – just don't call it a night shelter.

"It's officially a drop in centre, to pull them out of the cold," he said.

Deane said the relevant consents for the shelter are pending, and he's already put the hard yards in organising the accommodation, security, bed and shower facilities.

He said that last night he left the drop in centre at 10.30pm, drove to their Taupo night shelter where he worked until 7am when he drove back to the Rotorua drop in centre.

He said with the imminent opening of a Tokoroa night shelter, he won't be slowing down any time soon either.

"Everything I have done in my life I've never done in halves," he said.

"Put your whole heart and soul into it." 

More information on Visions, and how to contribute, can be found online at https://givealittle.co.nz/org/visionsofahelpinghand

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/104573806/for-the-second-largest-group-of-homeless-people-in-new-zealand-tiny-brought-big-change

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