Imagine seeing someone suffering, and rather than continuing with your day, deciding to do what you can to help. Liz Kite did that ten years ago when she noticed multiple homeless people in Tauranga CBD.
Initially from a trestle table outside the Tauranga City Library, Liz gave home-cooked meals to whoever needed them. She continued to serve the city's homeless for two years before moving her meals to the Cliff Road Community Hall in 2016.
With the capability and availability to do so and a passion for people, Liz Kite started an organisation from kindness, which now fills around 150 bellies each week.
Under the Stars feed the homeless community in Tauranga twice weekly with Thursday lunch and Saturday dinner. Guests can sit down or get takeaways to take to family or friends who cannot reach Cliff Road Community Hall due to transport issues or disabilities.
Under the Stars is feeding those in need and offering a safe space for social connections to society.
With other kind community members having joined the efforts of Under the Stars, the organisation has never missed a meal on Thursdays or Saturdays since starting in 2014.
Ani Stace, Under the Stars Manager says Under the Stars must be a calming space for guests to visit as many have mental health struggles for various reasons, along with those who have lost a connection to the community.
“It fills their stomachs and gives them social connections in a safe environment where they become connected to a new society and begin to look out for each other.”
“As most people living on the streets struggle with security due to being beaten up, robbed, and having random acts of violence against them daily, they have the fight or flight mentality.”
“They live their life in constant readiness to run, and it makes them volatile, so we create a calm space where everyone is kind to them, and they don’t feel judged or at risk,” says Ani.
Alongside providing meals twice a week, guests can also use shower facilities and toilets, and get some essential items. Items such as personal care, sanitary items, extra food, tents, sleeping bags and socks are available for guests to return to their shelters.
Collaboration is also beneficial for Under the Stars, as they work with three other service providers to gift clean clothes to their guests when needed. They also have a Barber attend once a month to do free haircuts.
“Our guests really look out for each other, and each visit is often a time for them to connect and check in with each other. You can feel the community vibe around,” says Ani.
TECT recently funded $8,000 to support the operating costs of Under the Stars. By receiving funding, Under the Stars can provide their guests with a variety of meals, or simple things like ice blocks on a hot day. This gives guests moments of excitement, a small change that can easily make their day.
TECT Trustee Peter Farmer says TECT aims to help strengthen local organisations so they can create long-term social change.
“Funding provides financial stability to look into the future rather than scrambling daily. It allows organisations such as Under the Stars to plan and focus on building towards gaining more funding to extend their reach and be more sustainable,” says Peter.
By providing food to the homeless community, Under the Stars is aiding in reducing the crime rates of this community, as fed people steal less. With there being a lot of boundaries for the homeless community, having somewhere they can walk in the door and be treated equally, gives them joy and the community peace of mind.
With the support of 40 active volunteers giving their time, energy, and kindness, Under the Stars continues to prove that everyone can do something, no matter how big or small to help. We may not be able to help everyone, but everyone can help someone.