By Amanda Murthy
The effects on an on-going pandemic, means tough times for everyone.
But thanks to St Pat’s Community Support Centre (St Patrick’s) in Fremantle, together with their collaborators, people faced with homelessness and extreme poverty will have one less thing to worry about.
Project Doorstep Dinners, an initiative led by the centre, in collaboration with Rise Network, Fremantle Chamber of Commerce and United Way Western Australia, was launched on 7 April to provide relief in the form of one hot meal per day to the vulnerable, while helping local food businesses stay opened.
They have launched an appeal to the public to raise a minimum of $160,000 that will provide an additional 10,000 meals to people faced with extreme poverty and homelessness for the next three months.
Since 1972, St Pat’s Community Support Centre, founded by Brother Ignatius Hannick, with the support of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, have worked to help those who are homeless or at risk of being homeless in Fremantle and the wider south west metropolitan region of Perth, by providing quality care through services such as emergency relief, housing, meals, welfare, education, recreation and health.
St Pat’s Chief Executive Officer Michael Piu spoke to The Record, explaining this initiative and why community support is vital.
“Most of our recipients are in the high risk category for this virus, due to factors such as their age or chronic illnesses – a number would usually come to our Centre to get their meals on a daily basis, but are unable to do so now given the health risks to them,” he cited.
“With the directive was given by the government to stay at home, we had to come up with an alternative way to keep serving them.
“Meanwhile, the announcement by the Prime Minister that restaurants were no longer able to open to the public had a major impact locally – with food and entrainment such an important aspect of the Fremantle community that has supported St Pat’s work for so many years.
“This development presented us with an opportunity however to create a win-win with the idea of helping locally-owned restaurants, and the staff and local suppliers which depend on them (currently, La Sosta, Benny’s Bar & Café, Strange Company and The National Hotel), by raising funds to pay these restaurants to produced the meals for our recipients,” he added.
While the Minderoo Foundation and The McCusker Charitable Foundation generously provided initial funding that help set up the project and cater 200 meals a day, for the first 45 days, Mr Piu stated that there is still much that can be done.
“$112 will provide one meal each day for a week, so you can see, there is a lot more support needed to continue this initiative,” he said.
“We have seen examples of how this pandemic has brought out the both the worst and best in people (as Archbishop Costelloe recently stated in a recent homily), but the public response to our project has been heart-warming, and our hope is that it gives us the community an important opportunity to focus on something positive and bring the community closer together, even though we have to be physically distanced.
“A big part of this, is that we have been fortunate to have so many volunteers reach out, from across the Archdiocesan parishes, Catholic school parents and staff, Catholic Education staff, the wider Christian community, and so many members of the broader community – it’s wonderful to see everyone come together for a great cause,” he explained.
In fact, it was through the efforts of one parent volunteer, Mr Piu said, that “personal messages of hope, solidarity and care” from school children to the recipients (sent via email) now accompany the delivered meals, twice a week.
“Such a simple gesture of receiving encouraging hand-written notes or drawing from a child, provided such incredible joy to our recipients, it was incredible to witness and we hope to continue including these notes that make these deliveries even more special.
“At the end of the day, our mission is to see the face of Christ in every person, in the most downtrodden among us.
“And as Catholics, we have this duty to love every one of our neighbours, and try to bring the community together to support each other – this is what we hope to achieve with Project Doorstep Dinners.”
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This article first appeared in The Record and is republished with permission.