A time for those less fortunate

December 21, 2023 BY

Gareth Kent Director, Preston Rowe Paterson Geelong wraps up the property market for 2023.


And so it is Christmas and 2023 draws to a close.

I would like to end the year with a thank you to the support team: John Fitzgerald as my editor, Paula Allan for putting up with my missed deadlines and Warick Brown and Times News Group for letting me do this! I would especially like to thank you the readers, and those that found time to give feedback which thankfully has been supportive, mostly!

As you may know, I am a Board Member of Geelong’s homeless support centre, Lazarus, something I have been involved with for seven years. I am compelled at this time of year to mention the work undertaken by Lazarus and the need in our community for an organization such as this.

Lazarus is a drop-in day centre for homeless and people suffering disadvantage. It is a place of love and respite where people can come to have a hot meal, a shower, maybe get some warm clothes, fresh underwear or perhaps even a sleeping bag for those cold nights. It is located in the Old Geelong Gaol, Myers Street and is run by four paid professional staff with incredible support from over 55 volunteers. The board is also made up of 11 volunteers who provide their time and expertise. Lazarus recieves no operational funding from government, but manages to serve meals to an average of more than 50 people per day. We exist solely on the generosity of Geelong businesses and individuals, and we somehow find the $250,000 annually we need to run. We could not exist without the support of Anthony Costa Foundation, Geelong Community Foundation, Give Where You Live, Geelong Connected Communities and many more.

The Lazarus annual statistics are a sobering reflection on the level of disadvantage in our city:

  • Number of clients/people experiencing disadvantage or homelessness that have visited Lazarus during the year; 11,700
  • The number of times someone has used the (only) shower we have: 9,500 times
  • The number of clothing items or bedding that have been provided: 15,000
  • The number of meals that have been served by our volunteers throughout the year: 12,000.

Unfortunately, these statistics seem to keep rising. 2023 was a pretty tough year for a lot of people who were perhaps already on the edge. Rising rents and low vacancy rates pushed more people into homelessness than ever before. Welfare statistics released last Tuesday show that the number of people who sought assistance, being already homeless, grew by 5.5 per cent. The proportion of people sleeping rough grew by 17 per cent.

As a property professional, I am often struck by the differences in our society. I can sometimes be valuing a multi-million dollar home in Newtown at 9am – a four-bedroom home with one occupant. And then undertaking an inspection of a commission home in Norlane, 5km away, at 10am. The Norlane small three-bedroom cottage, will be home to two or sometimes three generations of a family. A stark contrast between those that have, and those that have not.

I naively used to think that it was simply about choices people make in life, choices of education, choices of jobs, but my time working with Lazarus has taught me that sometimes people simply don’t have the same choices. I now understand that I was just very lucky to have been born into a family that provided me with choices and to have people around me that guided me to make the right ones.

Please, this year, when enjoying loads of Mum’s undercooked roast potatoes or Dad’s burnt brisket, take a moment to reflect on what life could have been if you didn’t have those choices and guidance. And perhaps, in your 2024 new years resolution, if you can, include a little something for an organization like Lazarus that does change lives. We could use your help.

Head to lazaruscommunitycentre.com.au/get-involved/#donate

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Love to you all. Go Cats.

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