Recipe of respect for kitchen that’s been serving free meals for the homeless

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(ABC Sydney: Harriet Tatham) ABC Radio Sydney

By Harriet Tatham


October 11, 2018 13:24:39

The kitchen serves 50,000 meals a year.
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Seven days a week the volunteers, including retired doctors, dentists, graziers and parishioners, serve lunch between 11:00am and 12:30pm to thousands who sleep rough or struggle to pay living costs. (ABC Sydney: Harriet Tatham)
Mr Coleman agreed: “I’ve met many people here, there’s lots of opportunities to be social and to reconnect. “I think there are more women and that’s disturbing, but there are a lot of services,” he said. “I don’t know how they do it but I’m, very glad that they do.”

Michael Coleman is homeless while he searches for the funds to pay a locksmith to get back into his house. “I catch the night rider bus, about 3:30, 4:00 every morning.”The way things are going at the moment, food is going up, rent is going up, and that’s why I come here.”While the food was certainly a reason for Mr Nathan travelling from Sydney’s west, he said it was more about connection. “I was so surprised that this place even existed, because the food they put out would cost $20 or $30 if you went to a pub,” Michael Coleman said, as he ate Asian-inspired roast chicken, fried rice, a ham and salad sandwich, with cake to come. (ABC Sydney: Harriet Tatham) It’s a big job, but for the volunteers at St Canice’s Kitchen, which for 30 years has prepared meals for those down on their luck, the recipe is familiar. “Sydney is very forgiving.”

Trent Nathan rises early each morning to make his way to St Canice’s. “I come here four days a week and I travel all the way from Croydon,” Trent Nathan said. (ABC Sydney: Harriet Tatham)
Homelessness rising despite economic growthAustralian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures released in March found that despite sustained economic growth, homelessness has continued to rise, with a 14 per cent increase in the number of homeless people since 2011. At 10:00am sharp, inside a small soup kitchen in Kings Cross, a dozen volunteers surrounded by donated produce don aprons to prepare for lunch for 130 people. “People that come here, it gives them a sense of community.”

St Canice’s collects bread from local bakeries to give to attendees. “We’re one of the only ones now that don’t change a meal and it makes my week to come here,” John Giblin said, who manages the kitchen on Wednesdays and has been volunteering since 2006. “There are more women now than there used to be, of course the vast majority are men, but there are more women coming now.”

Sister Sheelah Mary has volunteered at the kitchen for the past 18 years. “We hope to provide for the daily needs of the people,” Sister Sheelah Mary, who’s been involved for almost 20 years, said.”The numbers are getting bigger and bigger. “Also, in the church they give out things like towels, blankets, toiletries, shoes even.”And the connection isn’t just for those on the receiving end of the kitchen. “People need to come to a place where they feel safe and comfortable and meet new friends and share stories with each other.”That’s St Canice’s.”

Paul, visiting St Canice’s for lunch, says the food is some of the best he’s tasted. Think there are no homeless people in your area? “If it wasn’t this place, I don’t know where I would be today, so I’m very, very grateful. Think again More than 100,000 Australians are homeless and they live in virtually every part of the country. The facts on homelessness:Tonight 116,427 will be homelessThat’s a 14 per cent increase in homelessness over 5 yearsEvery day, 250 people are turned away from crisis centres across the country Homelessness increased in NSW, VIC and QLD There was a slight decline in the NT
NSW had both the largest and fastest growing homeless population, with a 27 per cent increase in the rate of homelessness.And while the majority of homeless people are men — between 58 and 60 per cent in all states except for the Northern Territory where the numbers are equal — Mr Coleman said he believed the portion of women in Sydney were increasing. (ABC Sydney: Harriet Tatham)
Despite being attached to St Canice Catholic Church, the kitchen is non-denominational. (ABC Sydney: Harriet Tatham)
Staving off social isolationThe offer of goulash, curry, pastries and fresh juices is hard to resist; the kitchen draws crowds from all over Sydney.