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.

– Peer support
– Social and community enterprise
– Advocacy
– Community building

Merge is a doorway to support and opportunities

Lived experience and peer support are at the heart of our approach. Lived experience means the knowledge, wisdom and expertise that comes from experiencing major life challenges. Peer support is given by those with lived experience who gain training and skills to use their own journey so that they can help guide others.

Street whānau are those who are rough sleeping, homeless or ‘vulnerably housed’, such as those in emergency housing, overcrowded homes or boarding houses. Street whānau 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 or mental health distress. You’ll find us in the Merge Café, 453 Karangahape Rd and in the space upstairs.

For more information about our approach, visit our learning report

Peer support

Peer Support volunteers and a coordinator offer support and advocacy at the Merge Café, every weekday between 10am – 12pm.

We can support and advise you about housing and services such as Work and Income. Just come into Merge Café and ask for Peer Support.

We only work face-to-face and it’s first come, first served. You can find information about other resources and services in the inner city at awhina.net.nz

Our volunteers have lived experience of rough sleeping. Lifewise supports them with hands-on training and development opportunities. Volunteering as a peer support person is a stepping stone to a profession in peer support.

“I moved from being a client to a peer support volunteer. I came to see what they could do for me and I saw that I could do things for myself

Haven

Haven is a peer-led after hours support space where you can drop in. It’s hosted at Merge Café, 453 Karangahape Rd.
If you are dealing with addiction, mental health or rough sleeping, Haven is a quiet place to recover, connect and get support from people who have life experience and provide hope and guidance.

Haven runs at the weekends at Merge Café:

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

Haven is a collaboration between Lifewise, Odyssey and Mind and Body who all use a peer support approach to addiction, mental health or homelessness. Haven is managed by Odyssey and funded by Ministry of Health.

“Riporipo kau ana, ka pōkarekare te wai. The whirlpool we create, causes ripples. Our experiences influence others
– Whakatauki by Ken Kerehome, Former Pou Manukura, Lifewise

Social enterprise and work opportunities

We build work and income earning opportunities around people, rather than trying to fit people into existing work. The best pathways for people are around their skills, interest and knowledge. We go with their energy and explore their ideas.
Merge also works alongside work agencies that are open to taking a more tailored approach to offering work and career opportunities.

If you are interested in contracting us or want to support our mahi, please email works@lifewise.org.nz

Lifewise Works

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 new tenants. It offers a safe place for our whānau to stretch their working muscles. We also provide peer-to-peer cleaning for those needing a little support around how to clean their first home.

Urban Hīkoi

Urban Hikoi gives guided hīkoi (walks) around the city centre, led by people who have experienced sleeping rough. Our guides invite people to see the city through their eyes; as a bedroom; a lounge; a playground and a bathroom. The process nurtures empathy and tackles myths about people on the street. Hīkoi walks range from a 90 minute tour for tourists and locals, to a four hour walk. The longer walks have particular impact for business or corporate groups training for empathy and inclusion. All our walks conclude with kai at Merge Café.

Piki Toi

Piki Toi harnesses the creative skills of street whānau and the Unitec Design School to make and sell art. Piki Toi has been commissioned for public art works (see the K’ Road overbridge) and has exhibited for Art Week in spaces such as Merge Café and the Ellen Melville Centre. Some of the artists involved have set up their own Trust with other community partners.

Kitchen

Advocacy

We work to empower our community to use their expertise in leading their social change.
We do this by helping 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 of our services.
We strive to provide advocacy opportunities for individuals and right up to the system level. Some examples of this work are:

STREET– Stories of homelessness from the Merge Community (2019)
Mana Wahine – Women’s experience of rough sleeping in the Auckland City Centre (2017)
Stuck in the ’80s – Submission to the Welfare Reform

“We pick someone up off the concrete, give them a home. The ones that want to move forward come to our peer support team. They won’t find that at other services. This comes from the heart.

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.

Our successful community building includes work at emergency housing motels with shared cooking spaces and support groups for addiction.

We’ve trialed community spaces such as maker spaces and community resource spaces. One example is Te Whare – a community resource space in Pitt St. Te Whare was kaupapa Māori and led by lived-experience, bringing artists and creatives together to build community.

Bonfire

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