“A sort of social services”: a wellness center officially opens in Tauranga

Tania Waikato, coordinator of I Am Hope Tauranga, in the healing room. Photo / Mead Norton

A wellness center for the most vulnerable in Tauranga has officially opened.

Around 170 people gathered for the blessing of Whare Waiora today – a space that would provide ‘social services triage’ for community members in need.

Community leaders, prison and police staff, Te Tuinga staff, former prisoners and students are just some of those who spoke at the event.

Tommy Wilson, Director of Imagination at Te Tuinga Whānau Support Services Trust, said Whare Waiora would help reconnect people, share knowledge and provide a range of social services.

The newly renovated building on Anson Street.  Photo / Mead Norton
The newly renovated building on Anson Street. Photo / Mead Norton

Mentoring, counseling, music therapy, tutoring, youth justice, medical and budget support, and free kai are just some of the services that would be available.

“This town needs a place where you can sort. Once they come to us, you can assess what their needs are – is it mental health, is it addiction, is it violence, is it the food? We’re like a social services triage,” he said.

When asked who the space is for, Wilson said “for those who need to reconnect, for those who need the most help.”

“There is no age for sick people. It’s for everyone who needs it.”

Tommy Wilson, Imagination Director of the Te Tuinga Whānau Support Services Trust.  Photo / Mead Norton
Tommy Wilson, Imagination Director of the Te Tuinga Whānau Support Services Trust. Photo / Mead Norton

Another major objective would be to support at-risk youth who were struggling in school.

The space was designed with this in mind – using light, color and art – to help young people feel settled, connected and free to express themselves, he said.

He said it cost about $200,000 to fit out the new space with brand new renovations, lighting and landscaping.

There is a music room, a healing room, a garden, and other offices for people to meet in the building.

Wilson said today’s opening gave him “great hope that there is a chance”.

“You wake up, watch the news and think life is just a sandwich of shit. But it’s not. You can see the potential, you can see the hope.

“When you can have prisoners, police and community kingpins in the same room, that’s how we bring about change. That’s how we make Tauranga the safe anchor.”

The CBD building was a former hairdressing academy on Anson St and the hub will initially have a team of five.

Boss Sir Paul Adams addresses the crowd.  Photo / Mead Norton
Boss Sir Paul Adams addresses the crowd. Photo / Mead Norton

Patron Sir Paul Adams, who addressed the crowd at the opening, said the hub was “necessary to provide expanding services so desperately needed in our region”.

But continued financial support was needed to ensure the “sustainability of the organization”.

“As a member of the community, I have always tried to support those who help others. Te Tuinga fits very well into that mold – in fact, better than most of what we have in the city,” did he declare.

He said the trust was at a “crossroads” where it has moved from a “very small operation” to a range of skills.

“Over time it will continue to grow, so it needs financial support from the community – from central government to local councils, community trusts and individuals. I am just one of those people in town.”

I Am Hope chief executive Kahlia McDougall was delighted the organization was now able to offer Gumboot Friday services – including free counseling for under-25s
– at Whare Waiora.

She acknowledged Adams who had been “hugely supportive” of funding the role of I Am Hope lead clinician Kirsty Britton, who would be based full-time at the hub.

Richard F. Gandhi