Homeless service expands

July 30, 2021 BY

Chas is one of more than 20 volunteers who help feed and support hundreds of homeless people in the Geelong community at Lazarus Community Centre, which will soon open seven days a week.

HOMELESSNESS doesn’t just happen on weekdays.
And after 12 months of planning and a generous $20,000 donation through the Give Where You Live Foundation was secured, Lazarus Community Centre is set to expand its service to seven days a week to meet the growing demand for food and support.
Lazarus Community Centre provides a safe, welcoming space for people experiencing homelessness or social isolation where they can eat, have a shower, launder clothes, socialise and connect with other services in the community.
Centre founder and board member Michael Nolan said the grant would enable the centre, which receives no government support, to expand from opening five days a week to seven days, starting from the weekend of August 14 and 15 (subject to COVID restrictions).
“We open 9am to 4pm on weekdays and we will trial 10am to 2pm on weekends to see if that meets the demand,” Michael said.
In just one month, from May to June, visits increased by 100, with 695 meals served, 91 showers, the washing machine used 72 times and 101 visits to the clothes room.
More than 450 clients attended Lazarus Community Centre in June, including 34 new clients, averaging two new clients a day.
An average of 33 clients visited every weekday, with 60 clients attending the centre on its busiest day last month.
The expansion to seven days a week is expected to provide valuable to support to those in need.
“It’s something we’ve been planning for 12 months; we already have volunteers on a list for weekends,” Michael said.
“We’ve been open four years now, and it’s reached a stage that we know our clients,” he added, explaining how difficult it’s been during lockdown, and how demand is growing.
“We have a wonderful team of about 22 volunteers, of all ages including a number in the vulnerable age group, and there’s a real connection they have developed over time. They really care.
“We serve a two or three-course lunch, and we have a wardrobe room, and our volunteers help our clients find new clothes.”
Michael said the centre currently had suits and other excess clothing that it would share with local op shops when they reopened as restrictions lifted.
However, there was always demand for casual clothing like jeans, warm socks and thermal underwear at this time of year, with males making up about 85 per cent of centre’s clients.
Michael said as the centre’s reputation had grown, they had received more grants from organisations like Give Where You Live, and regularly networked with other charities and programs that could help with donations, and importantly match clients with accommodation to meet their needs.
He said a co-ordinated approach, with all organisations working together to address homelessness, would produce the best results.
“Ultimately, if we had a homeless hub in Geelong, there would be so much we can do.”

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