MELBOURNE NEWS

Community

Everyone can make a difference

A person wearing a mask handing a brown paper bag to another person wearing a mask.

Make a real difference to a neighbour in need this festive season by donating to charities such as St Mary’s House of Welcome.

The events of 2020, including the devastating bushfires and the longest COVID-19 lockdown in Australia, have had a huge effect on many people’s mental, physical and financial wellbeing.

Our most vulnerable community members, and the charities that support them, have been hit the hardest. We are seeing an increase in people struggling to put food on the table, and those experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Mark’s story

Each week, St Mary’s House of Welcome provides many hundreds of vulnerable people with nutritious, tasty, and substantive meal packs. Mark has been attending the centre for around two years.

‘St Marys House of Welcome provides strong support to a lot of people. Without this service, many of us would be absolutely lost,’ Mark said.

‘I had always wondered what was behind these walls and I am so glad that I came in. Back then, I could barely manage a lot of things in my life and I was dressed in rags. It was not a pleasant experience.

‘The House of Welcome is a home base for a lot of people who may not have family or friends to turn to. The food hampers include fruit, toasties, sandwiches and hot pasta – you name it. And the staff members are brilliant.’

Despite the struggles he has faced, Mark remains positive.

‘You know the Monty Python song Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life? You have to adhere to that otherwise you’re going to walk around in misery not knowing what to do,’ Mark said.

‘I’ve lost a few friends this year. One of my friends committed suicide. I want people to know that there is always help if you reach out and grab it.

‘COVID-19 has been awful, but I feel it has also brought the community back together. People seem to want to have a chat and neighbours have offered me food.’

‘When the lockdown finished, it was great to see parents and children back in the park kicking a football. I missed all of that.’

Did you know

Data from our Health and Wellbeing Profile 2020 tells us that one in three residents of the City of Melbourne are experiencing some type of food stress, such as skipping meals, or finding it hard to afford to purchase a meal.

According to Foodbank, the number of Australians seeking food relief has grown from 15 per cent in 2019 to 31 per cent in 2020. The increased demand for food relief has also put pressure on charities.

How to help

Melburnians care deeply about people in need and often ask us how they can help.

We encourage you to give what you can to one of our partner organisations that provide not only food but connections to the long-term support needed to address the complex issues that lead to homelessness. These partners include Launch Housing, Melbourne City Mission, The Salvation Army, VincentCare and Youth Projects.

This festive season, St Mary’s House of Welcome will be delivering Christmas meal packs, along with a hamper full of basic staples, and some Christmas treats, to Melburnians who have done it particularly tough this year. This includes people living in emergency accommodation, people sleeping rough, and people experiencing chronic homelessness and disadvantage with no place to go this Christmas. To lend your support, visit the House of Welcome website.

During December, you can also support charities like these by eating at a restaurant participating in the DineSmart program.

To find out more, visit How you can help.

To find out more about our commitment to reducing homelessness, visit Homelessness.

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