Story & photo Eve Jeffery
Every Wednesday at the Byron Bay Community Centre, a group of volunteers make a breakfast for rough sleepers.
As Christmas falls on a Wednesday this year, the group will be providing the only social event some people will have on the day.
The group, the Homeless Breakfast Hub, is a stand-alone group who cook up a wonderful feast of sausages, eggs, and bacon and have plenty of bread, fibre-rich cereals, porridge, Weetbix, toast, vegemite and all the spread as well as fresh fruit and a veggie stir fry for vegetarians.
At the end of the brekky volunteers make up take-away sandwiches and hand out any leftovers.
More than just food
But the weekly meal is more than just about food. Colleen Arnott has been a volunteer at the Hub since June 2018 and became the team co-ordinator in march 2019. The hub is a very social event which facilitates other services, she says.
‘Our homeless project worker Elyssa Purdie manages a support team, which includes volunteers who sign up people for showers at the community cabin. We have a community nurse on hand to tend to the needs of our homeless community, and we have access to legal/aid, a family, a youth worker, a needle exchange worker and mental health team who all pop in at various times throughout the morning’.
Colleen says it’s all very discreet. ‘We have free secondhand clothing on hand as well.’
The breakfast team has between seven to twelve volunteers, working hard each week to provide nutritious food as well as a family community feel for everyone. ‘This year we are having a Christmas breakfast for the first time in a few years so those of us without family commitments on the morning are excited about it.’
Colleen says they feed between 30–70 people on Wednesdays and summer sees the numbers increase. ‘I think our service is vital to these vulnerable people. They are not only fed well, but I feel they have a sense of comfort and safety and more importantly, somewhere to belong, somewhere to be and know they are welcome. Sleeping rough and having to move their place of sleeping often, I imagine, people are would have to be exhausting.’
It is incredibly important the community provide these types of services says Colleen.
There but for the grace of God
‘We are all human beings with basic needs, and many homeless people are ignored or treated with disregard and disgust from people who don’t particularly care to know the person. The work that is done by the Byron Community Centre to support our homeless community is amazing.
Colleen says that working with the homeless has changed her life in so many positive ways. ‘I’m ashamed to admit I was once one of those people who would rather turn a blind eye to those most in need than actually do anything to help them. Like everyone, I’ve had some tough challenges in my life, but I’ve managed to come out the other side. I’ve been lucky enough to have support to get through. So many of our people here have no one. There but for the grace of God go I…’
Colleen says what the homeless who come to the breakfast are currently in need of summer shoes and they are welcoming donations of thongs.
Other Christmas day events
The Brunswick Heads Uniting Church will be holding a free Christmas day lunch from 12pm. Organisers say, ‘If you can provide a plate to share that would be great, but not a requirement’.
Ballina Community free Christmas lunch will be held from 12pm and 2pm in the Ballina Presbyterian Hall, on the corner of Cherry and Crane Street.
This is a alcohol free event. For all enquiries phone Chris on 0431630 900.