Merge Community

Merge Community is a taonga grown from the street whānau of Auckland’s inner city. We grow hope, wellness and self-determination with street whānau in Auckland’s inner city through

  • Peer Support
  • Social and Community Enterprise
  • Advocacy
  • Community building

Lived experience and peer support are core to our approach. Lived experience refers to the knowledge, wisdom and expertise that comes from experiencing major life challenges. Peer support occurs when people are trained and supported to use their lived experience to guide others on their journey.

Street whānau refers to people who are rough sleeping, homeless or ‘vulnerably housed’, such as those in emergency housing, overcrowded homes or boarding houses. It includes those at risk of becoming homeless such as prison leavers or those stuck in emergency housing.

Our team is made up of staff and trained volunteers, most with lived experience of homelessness, addictions and/or mental health distress. Operating from the Merge café and upstairs, Merge is a doorway to support and opportunities.

For more information on our approach, see Learning From The Street.

Operating from the Merge café and upstairs, Merge is a doorway to support and opportunities.

Merge Peer Support

Peer Support Volunteers and a coordinator provide peer support and advocacy at the Merge Café every weekday, 10 am – 12 pm (noon).

They can support and advise you around housing, Work and Income and other services. Just visit Merge Café and ask for peer support. It is first-come-first-served, and face to face only. For other information around resources/services in the inner city go to awhina.net.nz

The volunteers have lived experience of rough sleeping, and are supported by Lifewise through hands-on training and development opportunities. The peer support volunteering is a stepping block to a profession in peer support.

PROJECT TEAM RAYMOND PAUL (aka Rayzah), co designer, Lifewise peer support volunteer, street brother and father. MIKE co-designer, Lifewise peer support volunteer, and street brother. JUSTINE MCFARLANE Lifewise Programme Lead (Community Led Initiatives), co designer, collaborator and mother. Thank you to Shadow for the contribution of his photos (patterns, statue, city scape and graffiti art).

Outreach

The Peer Outreach team connects with street whānau living and sleeping rough in the inner city, working with them to access other support services when they are ready. They also liaise with local businesses, organizations and community around issues relating to street whānau experiences. This is funded by Auckland Council.

If you have concerns about a rough sleeper’s welfare or would like some advice on how to engage with the community, please contact outreach@lifewise.org.nz

To know more, check out Inside The Cup and The Frontline.

Haven

This is a peer-led after-hours drop-in support space hosted at Merge Café.

If you are dealing with addictions, mental health or rough sleeping you can come and find a quiet place to recover, to connect and to get support from those who have life experience and provide hope and guidance.

Haven is in collaboration with Lifewise, Odyssey and Mind and Body (who all run a peer support approach to addiction, mental health or homelessness). Haven is managed by Odyssey and funded by The Ministry of Health Manatū Hauora.

Haven runs at the weekends at Merge Café, 453 Karangahape Road:

Friday 5pm -9pm | Saturday 9am-9pm | Sunday 9-7pm

Emergency Housing Navigation

Peer Navigators support people in emergency housing into secure housing, based on referrals from the Ministry of Social Development. They help people access support services and develop goals and provide advocacy when people are disadvantaged or need support to navigate social and private housing systems.

This is only for people who are in MSD Emergency Housing, and referrals come from MSD. If you are in emergency housing and finding it difficult to find suitable accommodation, please talk to one of our Merge Peer Support about referral for a navigator.

Social Enterprise and work opportunities

We build work and income-earning opportunities around people, rather than try and fit people into existing work. We construct pathways for people around their skills, interest and knowledge, going with their energy and exploring their ideas.

We also work collaboratively with those work agencies that are willing to take a little more time and different approaches in providing people with work and career opportunities.

  • Lifewise Works is a social enterprise offering cleaning and moving services to social housing providers and new builds. We clean vacant apartments and houses in preparation for a new tenant. It offers a safe place for our whānau to stretch their work muscle. We also provide peer to peer cleaning for those needing a little support around how to clean their first home.
    If you are interested in contracting us or want to support our mahi, please email works@lifewise.org.nz
  • Urban Hīkoi provides guided hīkoi (walks) around the city centre, led by people who have experienced sleeping rough. They invite people to see the city through their eyes; as a bedroom, a lounge, a playground, a bathroom, and in this way build empathy and tackle myths about people on the street. The walks range from a 90-minute tour for tourists and locals (currently being piloted) to a four-hour walk (especially for corporates developing empathy training). They all end with kai at Merge Café.
  • Piki Toi harnesses the creative skills of street whānau and the Unitec Design School to make and sell art. Public artworks have been commissioned (for example on the K’ Road overbridge) and exhibitions held in spaces such as Merge Café, during Art Week and the Ellen Melville Centre. Some of the artists involved have set up their own Trust with other community partners.
Piki Project

Advocacy

We work with the expertise of the community to be leaders of their own social change.

We do this by enabling people to participate in all levels of decision-making. People with lived experience of rough sleeping participate in governance, service design, delivery and continuous development.

We strive to provide advocacy opportunities at from individual to system level. Examples include Street – Stories of homelessness from the Merge Community (2019); Mana Wahine (2017) which shares women’s experience of rough sleeping in the Auckland City Centre and Submission to the Welfare Expert Advisory Group.

Lifewise would like to see an immediate review of the abatement ($80 rate limit on earning), one that allows people to work 15 hours a week (at minimum wage) and recognises the impact of inflation (on $80) since 1986. $80 in 1986 was worth approximately $250 dollars today or 15 hours of work, could encourage our whanau1 to explore meaningful ways to engage with work and income, just as people did in 1986.

Community building

We support ideas from street whānau to be tested and to fly, and ‘merge’ communities to break down myths and bring people together.

Some of the things we have done in the past are community building at emergency housing motels, such as shared cooking spaces and support groups for addiction.

We trialled community spaces such as maker spaces and community resource spaces, for example, Te Whare – a community resource space in Pitt St, that was kaupapa Māori and lived-experience led, bringing artists and creatives together and building community.

Operating from the Merge café and upstairs, Merge is a doorway to support and opportunities.

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