Auckland Transport is set to turn its shiny new $49 million Manukau bus station into a night shelter for rough sleepers over winter.
The initiative follows calls from the Salvation Army for community organisations to open their doors after a couple of people died last year while sleeping rough during the colder months.
The station, which opened in April, will cater for 15 to 20 of an estimated 50 rough sleepers around the centre of Manukau in South Auckland.
"This isn't any mad social experiment," said AT spokesman Wally Thomas, "it's just a good thing to do for people who are vulnerable members of our community."
Once issues like health and safety, insurance and matters with bus operators and retailers who use the building have been worked through, the night shelter is expected to open next week for about four weeks.
Salvation Army social policy analyst Alan Johnson said the agency would supervise the night shelter with help from AT security staff and the police, who know about it.
The shelter will open at 10pm. Rough sleepers will be provided with a mattress, soup in the evening, breakfast in the morning and be out by 7am, he said.
The inside of the Manukau bus station. (Source / Auckland Transport)
Johnson said the Salvation Army was conscious of the risk of anti-social behaviour, but is hopeful any problems can be managed. If not, the shelter will be closed down, he said.
"I wouldn't say a bus shelter is an ideal place to run an overnight shelter but it is as good as we have got and at least it is a roof over someone's head.
"It's going to keep them a little bit warmer than if they were sleeping under a bridge or in a car park," Johnson said.
He said rough sleeping was not just confined to the Auckland CBD, saying every suburban shopping centre now has a dozen or more rough sleepers in the alleyways and dark corners at any one time.
Churches in Manurewa were providing help to rough sleepers and the homeless and a minister in Papatoetoe had offered to open up a church hall next week, Johnson said.
Manukau councillor Alf Filipaina was pleased to see AT and the community looking after the most vulnerable, saying: "I just don't want to see any more deaths."
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff was pleased that AT, the Salvation Army and the police are exploring the idea of the night shelter.