Parramatta Mission pivots its traditional service

IT used to be the place for the homeless, rough sleepers, and the lonely to come together for two meals a day and some social interaction.

But now Covid-19 has forced Parramatta Mission to stop its five-day-a-week sitdown meals at its Macquarie St Parramatta headquarters – having takeaway instead.

There are usually 70 seeking breakfast and 100 for lunch each day.

Meals Plus will operate as a takeaway service until the Covid crisis is over.

That of course raises social well-being issues, a concern for Parramatta Mission which has been even busier with counseling and outreach services.

So, where do the homeless take their meals? According to the Mission’s acting chief executive officer Mark Newton, some still congregate together around the Mission’s church Leigh Memorial or find other places in the CBD.

“The trouble is, there is so much construction going on in the city, it is often overwhelming for people,” he said.

Keeping tabs on needy

Mr. Newton said the Mission kept tabs on those who came for meals – and those who have not turned up – making sure they were coping with life.

“We still run our usual range of services, with personal interviews while observing safety requirements, or online,” Mr. Newtown said.

The demand for Parramatta Mission’s services has skyrocketed since the pandemic hit in March.

Domestic violence, marriage breakdowns, alcoholism, joblessness, and homelessness have all increased, placing an extra burden on services like Parramatta Mission.

The Mission is seeing people who had never asked for help before – those who had been secure in their jobs and considered well-off.

But one of the biggest demands has come from international students, stuck in Australia with little financial help.

With tougher times, the Mission needs volunteers and donations more than ever.

“We receive no government assistance, relying on corporate or individual donations,” Mr Newton said.

If you would like to donate or volunteer, go to www.parramattamission.org.au

By DI BARTOK

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