St Canice’s Kitchen has been serving free meals for Sydney’s homeless for 30 years


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October 11, 2018 13:24:39

At 10:00am sharp, inside a small soup kitchen in Kings Cross, a dozen volunteers surrounded by donated produce don aprons to prepare for lunch for 130 people.

It’s a big job, but for the volunteers at St Canice’s Kitchen, which for 30 years has prepared meals for those down on their luck, the recipe is familiar.

“I was so surprised that this place even existed, because the food they put out would cost $20 or $30 if you went to a pub,” Michael Coleman said, as he ate Asian-inspired roast chicken, fried rice, a ham and salad sandwich, with cake to come.

“I don’t know how they do it but I’m, very glad that they do.”

Despite being attached to St Canice Catholic Church, the kitchen is non-denominational.

Seven days a week the volunteers, including retired doctors, dentists, graziers and parishioners, serve lunch between 11:00am and 12:30pm to thousands who sleep rough or struggle to pay living costs.

“We hope to provide for the daily needs of the people,” Sister Sheelah Mary, who’s been involved for almost 20 years, said.

“The numbers are getting bigger and bigger.

“There are more women now than there used to be, of course the vast majority are men, but there are more women coming now.”

Homelessness rising despite economic growth

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures released in March found that despite sustained economic growth, homelessness has continued to rise, with a 14 per cent increase in the number of homeless people since 2011.

The facts on homelessness:

  • Tonight 116,427 will be homeless
  • That’s a 14 per cent increase in homelessness over 5 years
  • Every day, 250 people are turned away from crisis centres across the country
  • Homelessness increased in NSW, VIC and QLD
  • There was a slight decline in the NT

NSW had both the largest and fastest growing homeless population, with a 27 per cent increase in the rate of homelessness.

And while the majority of homeless people are men — between 58 and 60 per cent in all states except for the Northern Territory where the numbers are equal — Mr Coleman said he believed the portion of women in Sydney were increasing.

“I think there are more women and that’s disturbing, but there are a lot of services,” he said.

“Sydney is very forgiving.”

Staving off social isolation

The offer of goulash, curry, pastries and fresh juices is hard to resist; the kitchen draws crowds from all over Sydney.

“I come here four days a week and I travel all the way from Croydon,” Trent Nathan said.

“I catch the night rider bus, about 3:30, 4:00 every morning.

“The way things are going at the moment, food is going up, rent is going up, and that’s why I come here.”

While the food was certainly a reason for Mr Nathan travelling from Sydney’s west, he said it was more about connection.

“If it wasn’t this place, I don’t know where I would be today, so I’m very, very grateful.

“People need to come to a place where they feel safe and comfortable and meet new friends and share stories with each other.

“That’s St Canice’s.”

Mr Coleman agreed: “I’ve met many people here, there’s lots of opportunities to be social and to reconnect.

“Also, in the church they give out things like towels, blankets, toiletries, shoes even.”

And the connection isn’t just for those on the receiving end of the kitchen.

“We’re one of the only ones now that don’t change a meal and it makes my week to come here,” John Giblin said, who manages the kitchen on Wednesdays and has been volunteering since 2006.

“People that come here, it gives them a sense of community.”

Topics:

homelessness,

charities-and-community-organisations,

community-and-society,

people,

human-interest,

sydney-2000



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