Soup kitchen sees spike in homeless diner numbers
THE number of people living on the streets or experiencing financial crisis is on the rise, according to volunteers at the Coffs Harbour Uniting Church Soup Kitchen.
Around 60 diners have been accessing the service each week day, up from the normal rate of about 45.
Some of those people live on the streets, while others have accommodation but may not be able to afford meals after paying rent.
Mark, who is a regular diner at the soup kitchen, is homeless and cites rental affordability as the reason.
"The rental situation around here is just really s****y," Mark said.
"Finding a good place to live, somewhere that's safe, is hard.
"Some of the housing they can offer you, well, you're safer on the streets."
Mark has been living on the streets for five months and sleeps away from the city centre to avoid trouble.
"The hardest part is not having somewhere to go at the end of the day," he said.
"It's a killer just wandering around, spending the day looking for something to do.
"I'd love to work - that would give life a purpose and give me somewhere to go."
Mark said while he recognised a lot of familiar faces among those living on the streets, there were new faces all the time.
Soup kitchen volunteer Alan Freedman says the service doesn't turn anyone away.
"There's certainly been a spike in the number of people coming in - today we've done around 60 cooked meals plus 12 sandwiches," Mr Freedman said.
"We don't ask anyone if they're homeless - but they may tell us and ask for help with things like towels, or for advice on somewhere they can stay."
The kitchen is run by volunteers, with donations of sealed food items always needed.
Eddy Nicolaou helps Coffs Harbour Baptist Church co-ordinate a free barbecue lunch and outreach program for homeless people each Saturday at Fitzroy Park.
"There's normally about 50 people at the lunch and we provide them with food, coffee and tea, as well as support and sometimes some counselling," Mr Nicolaou said.
"They might be having trouble at home or not have accommodation and although we can't help them in every way, we help the best we can.
"Sometimes that's just being there for a talk."