Connection is the most vital life-giving resource we can offer our communities as we move closer to Christmas. Building and rebuilding relationships with women and children accessing safe housing is a high priority for Rebecca Naoum, manager of our Domestic Violence Supported Accommodation, and her team.
“We plan to really connect with women and children who’ve moved in. As we’ve been working remotely, it’s been difficult to build that trust and rapport via Zoom calls,” said Rebecca.
Women and their children who have fled for their lives from violent partners receive up to 12 months of safe accommodation, and support in finding schools and care for children, counselling referrals, no interest loans, utilities and vouchers.
It’s a similar story at HopeStreet Inner City. “We work with quite a vulnerable population in and around Woolloomooloo, like the elderly who live by themselves and people experiencing homelessness. They may come for breakfast or a coffee and that’s really their only engagement,” said Tina Camera, site manager.
“Re-engagement and connection is our primary concern. Our community is resilient, however they really miss the social aspect of our centre. Our strength as an organisation is our community spaces. It’ll be nice to have that genuine engagement again.”
Of course, our delivery looks different with safety a key focus. Op-shops have clothing racks and tables outside, the café remains takeaway only, and youth activities take place outdoors in Woolloomooloo Park.
In Port Kembla, our usually bustling HopeStreet of grateful patrons has been empty with contactless emergency relief and takeaway meals the norm. Dianne Frohmuller, site manager, says people miss the community spirit and connection. “People are so lonely, particularly if they’re single. They can’t wait to gather again. They miss seeing their old friends, just like we have.”
Beyond connection, Dianne and her team are providing practical support to spark hope and joy, helping people get half-priced haircuts from a barber who once was a client. “We’re also supplying toiletries, clothes and shoes... Those basic things that make people feel good.
Stephen Pederson at HopeStreet Mt Druitt says during lockdown many needs went unaddressed in the hard-hit western suburbs as community members laid low. “We’re busy working with families because there are health issues, housing concerns, or financial problems they want to tackle in a collaborative way.”
“We’re having conversations around employment, goals, and training options, so connection might look like resources to help people prepare for interviews… practical things that lead to developing capabilities.”
“For us, it’s all about strengthening families and just trying to make people’s Christmas a little brighter, and more connected.”
In the Hunter region, at HopeStreet Wallsend, Craig Budden and his team left doors open during lockdown so people could safely access the café, food pantry, and free fruit and vegetables. “We often get a lot of good moments. Recently, a client gained a home after navigating housing with us for a long time. A single mum with three kids, and a terminal illness, the little family were living in her dad’s one-bedroom apartment. It was such a delight for us to assist where it almost felt hopeless. The family now has a home for Christmas,” said Craig.
“Every community is different. We know our community. And we know where the gaps are in support of it. For us, we know one of those is family support around the festive season.”
Everything is different this year. Events are tentative, our food relief partners have run out of hamper allocations, and non-perishable food items are difficult to source. However, our HopeStreet teams are determined to spark hope and joy in communities.
David Gibson and his HopeStreet Windale team who support their community with emergency relief and low-cost groceries will do the very best they can for Christmas. “I think a lot of it is emotional support - actually being seen is big. We’ve contacted people to check in and the response was, ‘It’s so good that someone was thinking of me’. Our reach and range will be targeted to people we know really need it.
“We’ve had families we’ve supported with food, advocacy and assistance. One family - evicted with three kids – were able to find a private rental and settle in. The parent told us, “You are the only ones who have been able to help us and send us in the right direction.”
In the last three weeks, Nathan Hampshire at HopeStreet Northern Rivers has had half a dozen people discuss their housing concerns. “People’s leases are not being renewed. The owners want to sell at a premium or re-rent it at a much higher price. There is a housing crisis going from bad to worse, and it’s right before Christmas which is always an added stress.”
Here, too, our team rallies to provide emotional support, emergency relief, no interest loans and supplementing moving costs.
Your generous gift can help our team create connection and hope this Christmas through addressing unique needs across our communities. Please send your urgent donation today.