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www.mn.catholic.org.au Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
Geraldine Williams reports on an experience,
not of the Night Care Van, but of Night Care.
Over the Easter holiday period, I spent an
evening with volunteers and patrons of the
CatholicCare Night Care Van ser vice. As
patrons began ar riving at Islington Park, I
was surprised to see the number of young
families coming out to receive a meal and,
if they were lucky, a bag of baked goods to
take away with them.
At the time of our most recent census ,
approximately 60% of homeless people
were under the age of 35*. Being
homeless is a result of disadvantage in
our community and it is impor tant to
under stand that a per son does not choose
to become homeless. Many are affected
by a shor tage of affordable housing, job
loss or mental illness. Others are escaping
domestic violence or a family crisis.
No longer primarily a social problem
confined to larger cities , homelessness is
incr easingly becoming an issue in regional
areas . Director of CatholicCar e, Lisa Shor t,
says, "As the stress on families to find
affordable, long-term accommodation is
amplified, we are seeing a significant rise
in number s of the State's homeless being
found in regional areas such as the Hunter."
CatholicCare's Night Care Van provides
a much-needed meal to those in our
community who can't afford the necessity
of food. Though the van itself has fallen
into disrepair and is no longer in oper ation,
dedicated volunteers collect weekly food
donations and deliver them to those in
need. Gabby, a volunteer and student of St
Fr ancis Xavier's College, Hamilton, notes
the loss of the van as significant in the lives
of those it ser ves; "There was a much
war mer sense of community when people
could sit down and actually enjoy what
they were eating. People in Newcastle
forget that there is this lower socio-
economic group that really does need our
help; even the smallest donation to get the
van back up and running will make a
Debbie, a patron of the van who has
experienced life on the str eets , stressed
the impor tance of getting the van back on
the road and was concer ned about the
approaching colder months . "It's terrible
coming in to winter with no hot food
available; when it's cold, people need a
hot meal in their stomachs." Accompanied
by her three gr andchildren, she added,
"Every cent counts ! Just chip in. It doesn't
hur t to remember every time you have
a meal to put a few dollar s aside for
someone who doesn't have any." As a
community, we need to shift our attitude
towards homelessness, lose the negative
stereotypes and create a more inclusive
society. Although every effor t is made to
find enough food, since the van has been
r unning at a reduced capacity, the reality
is that some people miss out. David, a
Night Care Van patron of sever al year s,
says, "When the van wa s her e, it provided
enough hot food for everyone.
GERALDINE WILLIAMS CHANGING THE FACE
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Since it hasn't been oper ating, people push
and shove and sometimes miss out. The
van is integral in suppor ting those who
need the most help, while maintaining an
orderly environment where everyone
receives their share."
I am reminded that Jesus said, "When you
give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled,
the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed,
because they cannot repay you. For you
will be repaid at the resurrection of the
just." (Lk 14:13-14).
*Australian Bureau of Statistics. Census of Population
and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2011.
To make a donation to the Night Care
van, please P CatholicCare 4979 1120 or
E firstname.lastname@example.org and
remember, even the smallest donation
will help someone in need.
Photo courtesy of Conor Ashleigh.
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