Sharing God’s love on the East Coast
The Parish of Break O’Day has a strong working relationship with Anglicare – and the church demonstrates God’s love in a range of practical ways.
A parishioner paid for the original building to be gutted and refurbished so it could be used to serve the community. ‘The work was done as a tribute to his wife who had died,’ said minister Mike Wakefield. ‘The builder had a constant stream of people walking past and coming in to see how he was going and what he needed.’
Locals donated paint, carpet, tiles and cupboards. ‘The whole thing would have been much more expensive if the town hadn’t been so good.’
The building became Anglicare’s new home, and the organisation recently celebrated its 15th year at the location.
‘Before Anglicare moved into the building, some parishioners didn’t realise there were people in St Helen’s without food or shelter,’ said Mike. ‘Now the church knows all about Anglicare and its work, and we help to respond to local needs.’
Anglicare Community Services Worker Thom Ryan said homelessness was common on the East Coast – with people ‘sleeping rough’ in cars, or on the foreshore.
‘Often people come to the area because they’re wanting to make a change. Some people with drug and alcohol dependencies decide that if they stay where they are, they’re not going to be able to kick the habits they’ve got,’ said Thom. ‘People feel that coming somewhere like this – smaller and quieter – will help. It’s a chance for new beginnings.'
Mike said the church offered hospitality to people who arrived in the area wanting to ‘sort their heads out and get themselves on their feet again’. The church has a caravan it makes available to people experiencing homelessness. Thom said that several years ago people were sleeping in the outside toilet block, so the church talked about it and got the van. ‘It would be lucky to be empty two weeks a year. Short-term, it gives people time to get their bearings and to secure a place.’
‘We’ve seen people turn their lives around,’ said Thom. ‘One chap stayed here six months, managed to secure permanent housing in Launceston, has maintained that, got work. I don’t think he would have made that transformation in a bigger place. He would have just drifted.’
The parish operates a furniture collection point from a purpose-built shed behind the Anglicare office. ‘The stuff used to be stored in a single garage, but when the shed was built it went from a cottage industry to an industrial operation!’ said Thom. ‘Most people who come empty-handed can usually find what they need. Everything’s free. It may not be complete or really grand, but when people move into a house we can usually get them beds, couches, chairs, tables, plates, pots and pans, knives and forks.’
‘It’s often how I get to meet people who later come back for personal issues,’ he said.
The church also distributes bread and other items donated by a local bakery.
Thom said the pastoral care provided by the church was invaluable.
‘It might seem low-key stuff, having a cuppa and a chat, taking someone out fishing, or giving them a hand when they’re picking up furniture,’ he said. ‘But it’s about acceptance. And for people who have been judged, or have screwed up and wonder how they might possibly redeem themselves – those acts of kindness are transformational. They give people the feeling of “I do fit in somewhere”.’
Anglicare services at St Helens include financial counselling, suicide prevention, individual and family counselling.