PLEA FOR HELP
By ANN-MARIE MAY
That is what time the Coffs Harbour community has left to stop the doors closing on a service that has helped more than 2500 local people in its five-year lifespan.
The motto for Streetside Oasis has been 'a hand up, not a hand out' but with their doors set to close at noon next Monday, either would be welcomed.
One of the welfare arms of Coffs City Mission and Bethel Church, Streetside Oasis has helped people on the Coffs Coast with welfare services, counselling and short-term accommodation.
It has also distributed more than 20 food parcels to needy families each week and helped people with clothing, furniture and household items through Coffs City Mission free of charge.
And perhaps, most importantly, the doors have always been open for a cup of coffee and a chat with one of the eight volunteers.
But all this help will cease in less than a week if Coffs Harbour continues to turn a deaf ear to their plea for help.
In April, the service learnt that their lease on low-cost premises at 20 Scarba Street had expired and with the building sold they would soon be out of a home.
Streetside Oasis office manager Carolyn McKechnie said from that moment everyone got to work to find new premises ? even making a public plea in the Coffs Coast Advocate ? but time has run out.
"It is very sad to say, but we couldn't find anywhere in our price range. We need to put our limited money to food, not rent," Ms McKechnie said.
"It is not possible for us to move the service out to the Bethel Church in Elswick Place as the clients will not be able to get to us. We need to be where the clients are.
"We have contacted the council and other organisations who may have had premises available, but had no luck.
"Further, we have asked others if they could help support rent payments. Again no luck."
Receiving no Government funding, the service relies on donations, which haven't been easy to come by.
"Bethel is a small church and it brings in groceries that they purchase from supermarkets. Donations come in from the parishioners, also profits made by Coffs City Mission," Ms McKechnie said.
"Sawtell Paradise Fruits, Bray Street Butchery, Bakers' Delight and Brumbies Bakery have supported us over the years. The only other source has been from the volunteers themselves.
"We didn't have the support of big businesses. Not that we didn't ask ? in fact we begged."
If you can help, whether it is with suitable low-cost rental premises or with rent subsidy sponsorship, contact the Bethel Church on 6652 6282.