Welcoming people back to our table this Christmas

12 December 2022
two volunteers working in the dining hall

After two holiday seasons of take-away service, Sacred Heart Mission’s (SHM) Meals Program will be offering a sit-down three-course lunch for Christmas again – making the day a special one for our most vulnerable.

Christmas lunch will once again be served in the St Kilda Dining Hall, bringing our community together and providing a place of connection after the challenges of the past two years.

While we have moved away from Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions, Australia is facing a cost-of-living crisis and the vulnerable community we serve are most impacted by skyrocketing costs of groceries and essential goods and services such as water, electricity and gas.

“This Christmas is going to be very tough for many people. Rising inflation and costs of living mean that people are struggling to keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table. For people without a home, this just gets tougher,” SHM Deputy CEO Stephen Schmidtke says. “For many people in our community, a meal from Sacred Heart Mission is the only food they receive each day.”

Sacred Heart Mission is often the one constant in people’s lives – it has been so throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. We will continue to support those who need us every day, especially around the festive season.

“We know that for marginalised people in our community there’s a significant shortage of venues that are welcoming and where they will be heard without judgement,” says Sacred Heart Central Manager Chris Middendorp. “Never turning anyone away, we work hard to provide a predictable, safe space where people can feel comfortable enough to tell their stories and ask for support.”

Sacred Heart Mission has been a lifeline for people for four decades. The organisation celebrates its’ 40th anniversary in 2022, maintaining the tradition of the Christmas meal to lift the spirits of our community’s most vulnerable and ensuring everyone has an opportunity to experience the festivities with others.

Returning to a sit-down service this year is a relief for both staff and clients after more than two years of take-away service. “We are so excited to be able to welcome people back to our table again,” Head Chef Kirsty Davis says. “We’re expecting around 400 people per day this holiday season and we’ll be pulling out all stops to make sure people experiencing homelessness or disadvantage feel extra welcome this Christmas, and ensure the day is special for everyone.”

“A meal at Sacred Heart Mission can be the start of a pathway out of homelessness. We know that at this time of year, our community members often feel more isolated without families and connections in the community, and we seek to bridge that gap.”

One meal at our Dining Hall can turn someone’s life around, just as it was for Isobel.

Isobel has a remarkable story – she went from being the CEO of a big company to experiencing homelessness in the blink of an eye. Born in Spain, Isobel moved to Australia after studying where she met her husband. Together, they bought a home in Sydney. Despite having a successful job, Isobel experienced homelessness after one of the directors of her firm was stealing from the business, causing it to shut down and leaving her without an income.

Isobel and her husband struggled to keep their heads above water, using credit cards to live month to month. Eventually the stress became too much, and they lost their home, and their marriage broke down. Isobel moved to Melbourne hoping for a fresh start but was unable to get a job interview despite her experience.

“I’ll never forget the time I realised I was homeless. It was winter, it was dark and raining. I tried to sleep under a bench at a bus stop in Southbank near the casino,” Isobel says. “I was scared and hungry. Then someone told me about the Dining Hall.”

At the Dining Hall, Isobel met Emily, one of our Pathways Workers. Emily was able to secure crisis accommodation for Isobel, helped her access mental health care and referred her to GreenLight, one of Sacred Heart Mission’s supportive housing programs. With the right support, Isobel has found a forever home and just adopted a puppy called Juno.

You can support Sacred Heart Mission’s Meals Program by donating here or by calling 1800 443 278. A $5 donation will provide a meal to someone experiencing homelessness this Christmas, and we need your support more than ever in the current environment.

Due to Covid-19, we cannot accommodate photo opportunities during our Christmas meal service, but we would be happy to coordinate a phone interview.


Wade Piva
General Manager Business Development