Helping those in need this Christmas

December 26, 2021 BY

Support: Martin Jessop, Fiona Mummery, Matt Parkinson and Rod Meadows at the MADCOW Café, which provides breakfasts and lunch for rough sleepers. Photo: JONATHON MAGRATH

THIS Christmas, homelessness support service MADCOW is continuing its efforts to provide food relief, emergency accommodation and employment opportunities.

At the end of last year, the Bendigo Baptist Church initiative named after the motto “Make A Difference, Change Our World”, shifted its focus from food relief to focusing on rough sleepers and opened its MADCOW Café for free breakfasts and lunches.

Since then, over 5000 meals have been provided.

“Food’s a big thing,” CEO of MADCOW, Matthew Parkinson said.

“If you want to sit down and have a conversation with someone that’s hungry, they’re not generally ready to chat, so you start with the food.

“We did a lot of general food support and there’s a lot of agencies that do that, and we said ‘well, what isn’t being done?’

“And what we were seeing was what we hadn’t seen in Bendigo before, guys sleeping on footpaths, under verandas.

“There were a couple of cases which were tough for us, really sad and our hearts just went out and we said we’ve got to do something here.

“When the doors were closed of most agencies during COVID, we had our front door open.”

MADCOW employs about 60 staff members through its community enterprise programs, which involves cleaning, gardening and other community support work.

“The profits from that pay for our homeless services,” Mr Parkinson said. “It’s a really good mix.

“We’ll put on another worker in our homeless service next year because the business side is growing. We don’t get any government support, we’re all self-funded.”

Earlier this month, MADCOW helped prepare 80 food hampers for children and families doing it tough in the region, which were delivered to those in need last week.

“It’s a real struggle and what we try do is make them a bit special, we put stuff in there with a bit of a Christmas flavour, stuff you might not go and buy if you haven’t got much money,” Mr Parkinson said.

He also said next year’s focus will be about how they can expand their homelessness services and work with other agencies and organisations in the region, such as Haven; Home, Safe and Bendigo Health.

“We’ve got the cafe, now we just need to expand the pilot program,” he said. “More space is crucial for us; we’d love to get it to the point where there’s a larger drop-in space for rough sleepers.

“We want to update our storage facilities for their gear, often they’ve got a big case and they drag it everywhere, we can store it here during the day for them. We want to update our shower and laundry services, there’s not enough now.

“This has become a really trusted space, word on the street is ‘come to MADCOW’. We are looking predominantly for people that are rough sleepers, there’s probably 400 plus homeless people in Bendigo.

“A lot of them are couch sleepers but we are seeing more on the streets during COVID, that’s where we focus.

“These are just people that might have made one bad decision and it can affect their whole lives. You’ve got to see past what you see sometimes.”