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After an extensive amount of planning and preparation, BaptistCare HopeStreet Port Kembla celebrates its official opening this week, having relocated to 27-29 Wentworth Street in Port Kembla in July.
The recent move has opened doors and created pathways for an increased demand of community members experiencing financial and food distress due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as existing clients who live on the margins every day.
HopeStreet Port Kembla volunteer, Geoff, confirms there are many new faces and much more convenience in the new location. “It’s more accessible here in town. It’s a very nice place. There’s more room and it’s more practical now, we’re all together in one space, the kitchen is not separated from the eating areas.”
“People now know about it, and what services are available here. Some people just come once or twice a week, they feel more relaxed to be here connecting during a time of isolation and disconnect. It gives them a place to come for a meal, or to pick up food that we give away,” said Geoff.
For Geoff, HopeStreet now represents meaning and connection to his community, while he started his journey somewhat involuntarily having been placed on work for the dole three and a half years ago.
“I had a few problems of my own. I looked after my dad for ten years, I was his carer for eight of them, then he died. My medical history with my heart and cancer and all that, I thought I would go on a disability pension, but they placed me at HopeStreet Port Kembla,” said Geoff.
Geoff has since had the opportunity to build strong relationships and connections at HopeStreet. He’s also had some time to reflect on the views he once held and the differences between himself and those he feels privileged to serve.
“I’d always drive past but had never been in and didn’t know what people did. There’s a stigma where people don’t know what the hell goes on, right? Like me, I didn’t know what went on here,” said Geoff.
“It really was an eye opener. At first, you’re conscious of the people off the street - but they’re just decent people. I went in and started getting to know everyone and I thought, this is alright.”
Geoff is delighted to be a key part of the HopeStreet team delivering non-judgemental support to those in need. “On a daily basis I see help happening with no judgement attached and I feel good that I too can help. Like going through clothes and helping someone find something if they need it, toiletries and stuff like that.”
“I notice the difference in myself in understanding who they are. I’ve had everything in my life available to me. Then you see people do it real tough. I got a better start in life. Others got the wrong side of the street, their lives are different because of that.”
During his role as his father’s carer over eight years, Geoff experienced isolation and a lack of community connection. Without HopeStreet, Geoff would not have social connection and friendships he lives for today.
“When I turned 66 and accessed the pension, I asked Di [HopeStreet Manager] if I can still work here and she said yes. I do that for myself. If I didn’t work here I would really miss it, the people here.”
BaptistCare HopeStreet Port Kembla, formerly known as Darcy House in its old location in Old Port Road, has been providing hope to the Port Kembla community since 2006.