Since 2010, Merge Café has been a fixture on Karangahape Road (K’ Road), operating as a pay-it-forward café with the goal of reducing and eventually ending homelessness in Auckland.
This Café’s origins date back to the Airedale Community Centre soup kitchen, which served Auckland’s homeless community from 1885 to 2010. That tradition, of supporting people experiencing homelessness, has continued, with Merge Café offering a space where anyone is welcome, great food is provided, and all customers have the chance to pay a meal forward to help those who can’t afford it. The crucial part of our mission is to make sure no one is turned away.
Fostering Pride and Mana
“Having choice is important for pride and mana,” says Merge Café manager, Manu Kahlon. He strongly believes in the dignity of choice given to every customer, offering multiple options for meals at both breakfast and lunch: Quite a change from the days of the soup kitchen!
Furthermore, by opening the café to the public, people who are experiencing homelessness are not isolated from others. The conversations and interactions they have – over a cup of hot coffee or a nutritious meal – help to destigmatise the issue of homelessness.
According to Manu, this café is “a space where anyone and everyone is welcome, regardless of their background or their social and economic status” – hence the name Merge, as the café aims to create an environment and sense of community with different sectors of society that would otherwise be separated.
One of the many results of Merge Café’s ethos is Merge Community: The Team that provides guidance and advocacy to people in the homeless community through the Café. The team also support the Housing First programme with community-led development.
Merge & Dine
On 12 July, with the support of AUT, Lifewise will be holding Merge & Dine, an event to celebrate the innovative work that Merge Café has done supporting Auckland’s homeless whānau, not only through providing them food and entertainment, but bringing down the societal barriers that separate them from more fortunate people, and offering a chance to gain employable skills.
The event aims to raise funds to support the continued operation of the Café and ensure that the café has a sustainable future – invitees are recommended to provide a minimum donation of $200 as part of securing their place at the event.
Merge & Dine will be held on Thursday, 12 July at 6:30 p.m. in the Atrium at AUT’s City Campus, where the team from Merge Café will work alongside AUT hospitality services to provide an evening of culinary delights and entertainment. This will be an extraordinary dining experience that you won’t want to miss, so donate and RSVP now and remember that anyone is always welcome at the Café on 453 K’ Road for breakfast and lunch!