Wallsend’s Café Tempest is the first business to officially become part of the Connecting the Hunter program – an extension of the annual Hunter Homeless Connect Day.
The new program provides a dignified and practical way for businesses to offer goods and services to those experiencing homelessness all year round, not just once a year.
At Café Tempest, people doing it tough can fill their bellies without worry.
It’s an inclusive space, where Julie Walter has been supporting the local community for the past three years.
Julie says she’s “happy to assist people who are legitimately in need” by providing a café meal, drink, a place to charge their phones and a welcoming space to chill out.
The café’s sign says it all: ‘Enter as strangers, leave as friends’ – a theme to be carried throughout the Connecting the Hunter program.
Marg McKay from Path 2 Change works with homeless youth, and already utilises the program by linking in young people with the café, especially when they haven’t eaten for a few days.
“Life feels easier when you’ve at least had breakfast,” she says.
“Then we address the other issues going on.”
Current statistics show rates of homelessness in Newcastle and the Hunter are rising.
Women accessing homeless support services now outnumber men, with many displaced by domestic violence.
Hunter Homeless Connect wants to expand its new program to offer the widest support network possible.
Businesses may be able to donate Opal cards, washing services, food vouchers, phone credit, driving lessons, swags, tents, haircuts or linen.
They can also provide a space where people experiencing homelessness can charge a phone, heat a meal, use a first-aid kit or have a hot shower.
Participating businesses will be identified by Connecting the Hunter decal in their shopfront windows, indicating that they provide basic services via a voucher system.
Those in need will receive vouchers via referral from Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS), to be used at the nominated businesses.
If you think you can help, email [email protected] with your business name, primary contact, phone number, email address, and the goods or services on offer.