155 Whare Āwhina’s transitional home
From the outside 155 Whare Āwhina’s transitional home is unassuming, no different to any of its neighbouring houses along the quiet suburban Whangārei street.
However, for the select few who spend time within its walls, this house holds deep significance as a welcoming haven full of awhi and hope.
Since opening in February 2022, it has been a safe haven for 20 women who have been through the toughest of times – those who are homeless, sleeping in cars, or in situations of danger - and have turned to 155 Whare Āwhina for help.
The home provides temporary accommodation for up to six women at a time. Each has the opportunity to stay for a 12-week period, which can be extended if more time is needed.
At its heart is Reina Preston-Boakes, Cassidy Nelson and Lois Joyce who are employed by 155 to support the women who have found themselves there.
"Our goal isn't just to provide a roof over their heads," Reina explains. "It's about creating a pathway to sustainable, long-term housing.”
"We assist them in finding housing that suits their needs and preferences, and it can be any housing option that brings them happiness.
“We've had a woman move into a cabin in a campground, others into private housing, real estate and Kainga Ora homes.”
Awhi beyond housing
While finding housing is the goal, the women receive round-the-clock support and any awhi they need to regain their independence.
Reina is onsite every weekday between 8am and 4.30pm. Her role is all-encompassing.
"The women who come in have often experienced trauma. Most of them are really withdrawn and find it hard to look at and speak to you because they have no confidence or have lost hope.
“It's our job to create a safe space where they can rebuild their lives. It's not just about finding a place to live; it's about addressing the underlying issues that have led them here."
Mental health issues are prevalent and building trust is crucial.
“So many are highly depressed because of past trauma. You don't often think that everyone around you is dealing with this but actually it's everywhere.”
As well as supporting the women in finding housing, Reina helps “with all the little things" and connects them with relevant support services, be it counselling, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, legal representation via 155 Community Law or kai shopping with 155 Whare Kai.
Reina will join some women for appointments, support them to set goals, and be on hand to provide emotional support.
“Sometimes they just want to sit down and have a chat.”
Every night at 9pm Cassidy or Lois arrive and stay at the home until 5.30am.
“This ensures that there's always someone on-site to provide assistance, support and a sense of security," says Reina.
To date, nine women have successfully transitioned into long-term housing.
However, for Reina and 155, success isn’t measured in housing placements but in restored self-worth and newfound resilience.
Witnessing the transformations is the most rewarding part of Reina’s role.
"When they first come in they are often withdrawn and lacking self-confidence. Over time we see these women blossom into empowered individuals.”
She recalls one woman who was anxious about moving from the transitional home to her long-term home.
“Now, she exudes confidence and happiness. It's incredibly rewarding to witness."
Reina says the women who stay in the home often form close bonds, supporting each other through their challenges and successes.
"We're a family here," she says. “When I come back on Monday, it's like coming home again.”
“A lot of the women have said that this place is not like a transitional house but a place of healing. It’s somewhere peaceful with good vibes, you know, where they can just start finding themselves again.”
155 Whare Āwhina is a Kaupapa Māori provider of wraparound support services for whānau in Taitokerau.
We're community change makers, lawyers and social workers and you can find us at our hubs across Whangārei and in Kaikohe - so come in for a cuppa and explore your future options.