How to Help
There are many ways in which you can support the work of St Benedict’s.
Making a donation
Cash can be donated directly through GiveNow at https://www.givenow.com.au/cause3304 at or in person to the staff at the centre.
White goods in good working condition, furniture, linen, food or personal items (such as toiletries) can be donated by contacting the staff at the centre
Cash and other items can also be donated through the local church communities that support St Benedict’s
Volunteering at St Benedict’s
St Benedict’s relies on volunteers to provide various services to guests especially for cooking meals.
Guests are always encouraged to participate in the life of the Centre. However, guests may only become official volunteers after the induction process and signing the volunteer agreement form.
Members of the community who wish to volunteer should contact the Coordinator in the first instance. All volunteers must read and sign a volunteer agreement and well as go through an induction process. Volunteers will also be required fill out a Personal Information Sheet so that they can be included in emails and other correspondence regarding St Benedict’s.
Volunteers are encouraged to give feedback and ideas to the Coordinator concerning their role and duties as volunteers.
Spreading the word
St Benedict’s relies heavily on donations and volunteers to deliver its services. Members of the public can support St Benedict’s by following us on Facebook and encouraging their friends and family to do so as well.
How helping us helps …
Its not about presents and toys
St Benedict’s always plays Santa on Christmas Eve. But its not about present and toys … St Benedict’s delivers food parcels to families in need.
Christmas is a time of high demand for St Benedict’s as staff and volunteers work hard to reach out to disadvantaged and homeless people across the Queanbeyan region.
St Benedict's provides a free meals for 60 people five days a week; and delivers about 30 food parcels daily. On Christmas Eve, St Benedict’s expects to deliver more than 50 food parcels; and host 150 people for Christmas Day lunch.
At Christmas St Benedict’s needs additional supplies of non-perishable food, but also hams, turkey and puddings … as well as some simple practical presents for men women and children.
In 2015 St Benedict’s staff and volunteers delivered more than 400 kilos of fresh fruit and veggies so that people could enjoy Christmas at home.
And among the food and dining, for St Benedict’s staff, one of the most the most rewarding memories of Christmas has been finding accommodation for a young couple so that they had a home for themselves and their new baby.
People in transit
St. Benedict’s community centre in Crawford Street in Queanbeyan can look a little like a railway station – people striding about on their way to an office or an appointment; other people waiting, filling in time; others in twos and threes deep in conversation with a coffee cup in hand.
Distressed, troubled and often angry people walk in off the street. The come in for comfort; for understanding and to find answers to the problems they can’t cope with. For many, St Benedict’s will give them their one hot meal of the day.
The 70 staff and volunteers spread out over the centre. Listening intently, trying to untangle the problems; answering the ever-ringing phone; just offering a cheery chat. Others are in the kitchen chopping and slicing, boiling and baking and serving lunch to 70 people each day.
And even on the days when the centre is closed, those same volunteers are unloading van loads of rescued and donated food – everything from a boxes of cauliflowers to cans of baked beans.
Then there’s the food parcels – that takes another hands on effort to make them up with enough food for a two or three family meals and then deliver them to those to local families who are struggling with hard times.
In the world of social services there’s a great focus on outcomes. That can include changes in attitudes, aspirations, knowledge, values, behaviours or conditions.
Fragments of a life
The woman at the gift shop in Queanbeyan was worried by one of her customers. Big fella, tall, thin, white hair, bushy beard. Clothes were OK, but she though he was a sort of ‘unkempt gentleman who didn’t look at all well’.
Problem was he couldn’t remember where he lived. He kept talking about being locked out of his place by some lady. Someone had changed the locks, he said.
The shopkeeper – worried that the unkempt gentleman might be homeless, called St Benedict’s to see if they could help.
One of the St Benedict’s team found him in the main street and went with him to the local Centrelink office to see what he might be eligible for in terms of aged pension or other benefits.
And that’s where his story began to piece together. He had been living with a woman friend who had indeed invited him to leave. He owned a property, but because of some non-payments was now in caught up in bankruptcy proceedings. He had been connected to another welfare support agency, but had failed to keep a string of appointments, so he was effectively on the outer with them.
St Benedict’s found him a caravan as a short term solution while they guided him through a range of longer term assessments particularly mental health (he had been abusive) and housing options. St Benedict’s managed his money until the bankruptcy was finalised and the public trustee took up the role.
The Department of Housing decided he had used up his short term housing allocation as he went through a period of erratic and threatening behaviour. He was facing a mental health assessment, but couldn’t be sectioned until that happened. He ended up in a local psychiatric hospital with a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia with and the onset of dementia. But St Benedict’s managed to convince the landlord to keep his tiny flat available.
St Benedict’s team then arranged for a public guardian to be appointed to manage his affairs. The Public Guardian is a public official who can be appointed as guardian for a person who is unable to make their own decisions.
In hospital he has put on 15 kilos; he’s had a haircut and he’s eating properly.
According to the St Benedict’s team this was case of simply finding a listening ear, someone to understand his problems; someone with the perseverance to help him through the maze of conflicts. If St Benedict’s had not come along. He would have wandered the streets; slept rough and more than likely suffered some serious health back.
On the bench
Around the corner from St Benedict’s in Queanbeyan a man sleeps – by choice – on a park bench in swag provided by St Benedict’s. He has mental health problems and St Benedict’s is working on finding him accommodation, but at least they can keep an eye on him.
And lying alongside him is a large dog. Problem is that he can’t be separated from the dog – and accommodation with a dog is not easy. “Least we can keep an eye on him – and make sure he gets a meal,” says one of the volunteers.
A troublesome combination
For some people nothing goes right.
Consider the example of the big fellow with tattoos, the shaved head and piercings aplenty and any well mannered bull mastiff cross at his side.
This 25 year old fellow had a bundle of problems including bipolar disorder which meant moody ups and downs, bursts of violent behaviour, a drug habit using speed and Ice. In all that wasn’t enough he was suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
And then he lost his job and split from his partner. He was living in his car. Then he wrote off the car and ended up in court for violence against his partner. He spent a spell in jail and now he’s out and living in squat.
And the police took the dog – he then spent his entire Centrelink allowance to get the dog out of the pound.
He’s one of St Benedict’s lunch guests as the team look for some solutions right across his demons for him to try to get his life back on track. The key to that will be finding some accommodation for the big fellow and his partner. And one more thing – the partner is pregnant.
Teenagers just having fun. Not
She’s in her 30s, brown eyes, long hair and waif like, but she’s surrounded–and dominated—by a group of teenage girls. They so dominated her life in her own house with partying and drugs and alcohol that her seven year old son was able to convince the police that it was just unsafe and threatening.
The Department of Family and Community Services – which has responsibility for child protection – took away the seven year old and the woman’s 6 months old baby.
She comes into St Benedict’s for help—and an understanding in managing her life through a web of alcohol, drugs, a sad history of abuse and a deep seated grief and remorse at losing her children.
St Benedict’s has found her alterative accommodation (the landlord ejected her from the earlier house) where she is now separated her from those teens. And they are working at getting the kids back, but that depends on the stable and safe environment she can offer.
A good tenant takes time
He was just out of juvenile detention came into St Benedict’s for a meal.
An aggressive 17 year old, he was battling a dramatic collision of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive disorder. Mostly quietly spoken, black dyed hair, lots of piercings. He just disappeared off the St Benedict’s radar for 12 months. He had tried to move back in with the family, but that didn’t work out. Now he was homeless with a destructive marijuana habit.
St Benedict’s came up with a novel solution. One of the local Ministers of Religion who works with St Benedict’s offered to sign up as a co-tenant for the now 18 year old. The Minister didn’t move in, but for the real estate agent it meant a lower risk for the tenancy.
Of course, the 18 year-old is no angel and there were noise problems; a break in and continuing mental health issues, but with the help of the St Benedict’s team he was ready for a better place.
This time he ready. St Benedict’s covered some of the rent and helped him get the Centrelink benefits he was entitled to. He joined the Green Army and at last report could boast a solid record as a good tenant, Even the real estate agent is smiling now.
Pregnancy not good news
When you're 19, spending every night couch surfing life is noun. Because you are not an Australian citizen, you can’t get any Centrelink benefits, so the news that you’re pregnant is not good. You can’t find work because the baby is due.
This 19 year old came into St Benedict’s with her partner looking for some help with accommodation. The partner was working, but then he lost that job.
St Benedict’s provided the couple with food parcels; then helped them into a down market rental. When the building suffered some damage; St Benedict’s paid for some short time stay at a local hotel.
Given that temporary relief and with baby now safely delivered, the couple can get on with life.
Look around the tables
Look around the tables at the St Benedict’s lunch time. Who are these people – and why are they here?
They are there enjoying the lunch because they are elderly and lonely and this bit of friendly companionship is the highlight of the day.
They are there because they are alcoholics—both men and women— and they just don’t eat regularly. They might be people who live rough down along the Molonglo River; or couch surfers who stay with friends or relatives, but don’t eat there.
They might be refugees and who are surviving on very little money. Some families are simply living in poverty with only enough money for very basic food. The St Benedict’s lunches (or the regular food parcels) are the major component of a sparse diet.
Transgender people get a warm welcome and attentive ear at St Benedict’s – which they find more than a little comforting
Other people are living in units where they can’t or now allowed to cook. Others have simply no cooking skills; and no money to buy food. Many people head for St Benedict’s when they come out of hospital; out of prison; or out of other institutions.
The St Benedict’s volunteers and staff know that for their lunch guests, the world looks like a better place after a hot meal. Doesn’t solve the problem of homelessness, but it does solve the short term problem of hunger and desperation that nobody cares.