Despite spending more than half of the year in lockdown, Sacred Heart Mission will share festive cheer to people experiencing homelessness and disadvantage in Melbourne by providing hot, nutritious meals, and gift certificates.
COVID-19 restrictions on the number of people allowed inside means lunch will be served as a takeaway meal from the front porch, and our chef and staff are busily preparing Christmas meals with all the trimmings, after an extremely difficult year dealing with a pandemic.
Sacred Heart Mission CEO Cathy Humphrey says over the 12 days of Christmas, Sacred Heart Mission will serve around 5,000 nutritious meals to people who are relying on the Meals Program more than ever as they encounter mounting bills, debt and poverty: often this is their only meal of the day.
“We’re preparing for a spike in people accessing meals over the Christmas period, as people are struggling due to job losses, mortgage or rental stress, debt, as well as women experiencing family violence, we are also seeing people who have international visas who are also unable to afford meals or a roof over their head,” Cathy says.
“It’s a festive tradition we’ve held for almost 40 years to lift the spirits of the most vulnerable.”
In preparation for the Christmas lunch, Head Chef Kirsty Davies says Sacred Heart Mission started purchasing nice takeaway containers and festive bags to serve meals in.
“We’re pulling out all stops to make sure people experiencing homelessness or disadvantage feel extra welcome this Christmas by giving each of them a gift of choice, a gift card to buy items they need, while knowing there are goodhearted supporters out there who are thinking of them,” Kirsty says.
Sacred Heart Mission is hoping this year’s Christmas Appeal will raise almost $720,000 to provide hot meals and keep the doors of our Dining Hall open to support hundreds of people experiencing homelessness and disadvantage 365 days of the year, like *Fred.
Fred will never forget how his first nourishing meal from Sacred Heart Mission’s Dining Hall meant everything when he was living homeless, battling cancer and it felt like he had lost everything he most valued: his family.
“My wife was six months pregnant with my third child. It was so tough as we were living on a two-and-a-half-acre property and I couldn’t physically do anything. “I became really withdrawn and depressed. The chemo really knocked me about. I started drinking to help get through the queasiness from the chemo, which probably wasn’t a good idea,” Fred says.
“For me, the Dining Hall represented safety, security and a place offering hope, a sense of community and belonging with an opportunity to move forward and not stay stuck in the system.”
Through support of Sacred Heart Mission staff, Fred entered into Sacred Heart Mission’s three-year Journey to Social Inclusion (J2SI) program, where he found a permanent home which was the catalyst for him reuniting with his daughter and beginning university studies. His Christmases are now filled with hope.
“Now Christmas is such a beautiful, joyous occasion, watching my daughter and her excitement and anticipation as she opens her presents and reads a note Santa has left her,” Fred says.
“We have a special Christmas breakfast, then have lunch with my brother and his family. The day is filled with laughter, sharing stories of the past and reminiscing of days gone by.”
You can donate to Sacred Heart Mission’s Christmas Appeal here or by calling 1800 443 278.
Note to media: *Fred’s name has been changed to protect his identity.
Due to COVID-19 and the busyness of Christmas Day, we cannot accommodate photo opportunities in our Dining Hall but we would be delighted to coordinate a phone interview.
Stay up to date with our monthly newsletter, Heartbeat