Catholic-Anglican joint venture allows homeless and vulnerable to dine with dignity

03 Jun 2021

By The Record

Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Donald Sproxton (second from right), Anglican Archbishop Kay Goldsworthy (third from right) and Joondalup Mayor Hon Albert Jacob JP (far right) are pictured with the regular visitors during a function on 21 May at Grace Café celebrating 1000 meals served to those “doing it tough” in the Joondalup area. Photo: Grace Anglican Church.

A Christian drop-in centre in Joondalup has successfully fed and provided comfort to the homeless and vulnerable with a common goal to love one’s neighbours as ourselves.

Dedicated to preaching the Gospel through their actions, Captain Simon Walker JP and Rev Dr Gift Makwasha of Grace Anglican Church transformed their church into a drop-in café, offering lunch and hospitality to the needy from 10am to 2pm since October 2020.

Grace Café marked the 1000th meal served by holding a celebratory luncheon on Friday, 21 May.

Grace Anglican Church in Joondalup turns into a drop-in café for vulnerable and homeless people for a warm meal, hospitality, and fellowship every Monday and Friday. Photo: Grace Anglican Church.

Regular guests were joined by notable dignitaries including Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton, Anglican Archbishop Kay Goldsworthy, Joondalup Mayor Hon Albert Jacob JP, and local Councillor Tom McLean.

Sacred Heart College’s involvement with the Cities of Joondalup and Wanneroo Ending Homelessness Group (JWEHG) led to a collaborative effort with Joondalup Street Chaplain Captain Walker and Grace church parishioners, members from regional St Vincent De Paul Conferences and catholic parish volunteers.

A meeting was held last year at Sacred Heart College to discuss the fledging Grace Café. It was decided that it would use volunteers from both Catholic and Anglican faiths to work together, initially on Fridays but later for two days per week.

Sacred Heart College Young Vinnies supports this initiative with donations of long-life food, toiletries, and meals cooked by students to add to the consumable supplies from other organisations.

The café primarily offers soup and rolls, a choice of hot meals, fresh fruit, and tea/coffee. This ecumenical venture was made possible by volunteers from the local Catholic, Anglican, and non-conformist communities.

Rossana Hywood, Sacred Heart College, Administrative Assistant – Social Justice, said she was enthused to see Catholics and Anglicans, together with representatives from several other Christian denominations, work together with a common goal “to love our neighbours as ourselves”.

“I believe this incentive is a shining example of different faiths working together and putting their faith into action by providing help for the homeless and disadvantaged in the Joondalup area,” she expressed.

Capt Simon Walker, Grace Café Pastoral Care Chaplain Co-ordinator, explained to The eRecord how the initiative came to fruition after last year’s COVID-19 lockdown caused a suspension of the operations of Street Chaplains and many other organisations providing food and support, leading to a crisis for those living on the streets who relied on aid.

“We put an advert in the local Nextdoor app for help and were flooded with support. People provided food, clothes, and pretty much anything we needed. Between March and September 2020, my wife Penny and I hand-delivered more than 3000 individual meals to almost 150 individuals ‘doing it tough’ in the area,” he said.

“Once we came out of lockdown, it became apparent that the problem of assisting the homeless was only going to become greater. Homelessness was on the rise, with experts within the sector anticipating a significant increase once the JobKeeper payments and the moratorium on rent increases and evictions ended.”

Capt Walker and his team decided it would be best to operate from a static location to provide its services instead of driving across suburbs to deliver.

“After identifying a timeslot that no other agencies in the area were using, the plan for Grace Café was formed. With the support of Grace Church priest Fr Gift and the parish council, we opened on Fridays from 2 October, providing hot meals, clothes, food parcels, toiletries and above all, a sense of community – a place of safety where vulnerable people can go for sanctuary.”

Within the first few weeks, the café reached an average of 25 persons served per session.

Since its opening, Grace Café has provided 1200 meals to more than 110 individuals. It has a core attendance of about 20 individuals who visit Grace at least once per fortnight, with many more who attend on an ad hoc basis.

“One of the things we do not do, either as Street Chaplains or in Grace Café, is preach. We instead follow the example of Saint Francis, who encouraged us to preach the Gospel in our actions. Even so, several of the regular attendees of Grace Café have subsequently attended Christian services.

“Grace Café provides a friendly environment where anyone can drop in for a hot meal and a cup of tea or coffee and essential supplies. Our goal is to offer a café style dining experience with a good choice of meals for free,” he continued.

“Most importantly, however, we offer friendship, compassion, and an opportunity for our guests to socialise in a relaxed and safe environment.”