Homelessness Counts: Parish of Beresfield/Thornton
Free Sunday Lunch Program
The Free Sunday Lunch Program in the parish of Beresfield/Thornton is service to provide a meal every Sunday to the homeless or those who would not generally be able to afford or prepare a hot meal (or salad in the summer). The program provides a meal to anywhere between 20-50 people each Sunday, with an average of around 35-40 people. The program runs every Sunday of the year, including Easter Sunday, and in 2016 will run on Christmas day. In 2015 when the church hall had storm damage, the lunch continued to run in the church in Beresfield.
The program is run by five different teams of cooks from within the parish, who take it in turns to prepare a lunch each week. A large team of volunteers assist with cooking the meal, serving, and washing up.
The parish food pantry is the only 24/7 emergency food source in the area and provides emergency relief for not just the homeless, but for anyone in need. The pantry is stocked and funded purely by the parish, with food donations contributed by parishioners. Food is also purchased from funds raised in the parish.
The parish is currently working with a local school to increase donations through a food drive. Students are encouraged to donate with prizes for the class who brings in the most food.
The food pantry supplied an average of 21 food parcels a month last year. Already this year the average is 40 food parcels a month. The Rev’d Doug Morrison-Cleary said that they have had two months this year where they handed out over 50 food parcels. “We are currently looking for more avenues of funding to support the food pantry”.
Mission Action Plan: Improving Access to Mental Health Facilities
The parish of Beresfield/Thornton is currently working on a project in their Mission Action Plan to improve access to mental health facilities in the local area; currently the closest support facility is in Maitland. There is a lack of mental health and emotional support in the area, particularly for the homeless.
The parish has recognised the need for mental health support through the ongoing Free Sunday Lunch Program and their Food Pantry ministry. The five year plan will identify what the need is in the area for mental health support facilities and at how they can leverage Samaritans, the University and the community to support the plan. “We are also looking at renting a space in a local shopping area to provide a hub for group work and a private consulting space. The project will also identify a need for a social worker or mental health worker to be partially paid by the parish to provide mental health care in the region,” the Rev’d Doug Morrison-Cleary said.
The Rev’d Doug is continually involved with local inter-agencies including 2322 to be aware of local resources and to keep an ear out for things the parish can do to support the homeless.
The parish has placed informational posters in local community centres and other local places and agencies where the homeless frequent to ensure the word about their programs gets out and to ensure they understand what the church can provide. Many of the homeless find out about the parish support through word of mouth.