Darla had been living in her car for three weeks – a long time to live so rough. It was cold in Ballarat, which meant her nights were especially miserable.
Darla was fleeing domestic violence, afraid to go to anyone she knew for fear of being found by her abusive husband. Her self-confidence was so shaken, she was unable to even face going to a refuge.
“I have to keep moving or he’ll get me,” she said.
The only bright spot in her existence was that every day she could get a hot lunch at Breezeway, a UnitingCare service in Ballarat that provides lunch 365 days a year – including Christmas Day – to homeless and marginalised people like Darla.
This service is funded with the help of donations received through SHARE’s annual Christmas Appeal. Along with other services supported by the appeal, it provides a welcoming place to get a decent lunch on Christmas day. The theme of this year’s appeal is ‘It takes only one candle to light up a whole room’.
Breezeway is one of many services SHARE helps to fund. People like Darla, families in financial distress, and those who are isolated or disadvantaged can get meals at places like Breezeway, or closer to Melbourne at Prahran Mission’s winter breakfast program or the Narre Warren soup kitchen.
The funds also help provide emergency relief to people in distress from Gippsland to the Wimmera – from help with utility bills and groceries to assistance with financial planning.
“Many are treated with hostility elsewhere. We’re welcoming and non-judgmental. It’s warm and there’s TV, tea and coffee,” coordinator at Breezeway, Barb Cole said.
Similar to other UnitingCare services that rely on volunteers, Breezeway has only four paid staff. Forty-five volunteers do the rest of the work. Not only do these services offer tangible help to the most disadvantaged people in the community, the kindness shown to them gives them something positive in their lives.
“For some of these people, we’re the only people who talk to them all day. They come and have a chat, read the paper, get a good lunch. It’s a gentle caring place,” Ms Cole said.
To donate to SHARE this Christmas free call 1800 668 426, visit www.shareappeal.org.au or send a cheque/ money order to SHARE, PO Box 24154, Melbourne, Vic, 3001.