Supporting The Wayside Chapel - Love Over Hate - Thank You For Your Donations

Supporting The Wayside Chapel - Love Over Hate - Thank You For Your Donations

 I have to thank our customers, one in particular, because we managed to raise 2500 aud for the Wayside Chapel winter appeal. Of course, I provided the product, but it was you guys who turned it into cash which could be donated. I will be running another of these sales towards the end of the month, not long now, and we will sell down all that remains of this month’s cut; but this time I intend to hold back on black tie and a few other collections.

Two weeks ago I got a call from Wayside from Samantha Jackson, their philanthropy manager. She was grateful for the donation and concurrently invited me in to see the facilities and at the same time explained that for them private donations are essential because it allows them to be more agile than often government funding allows for.

Yesterday I met up with both Samantha and Gabby on site. The Wayside Chapel is on Hughes Street in Potts Point, effectively Kings Cross – well it most definitely feels like Kings Cross, and it is a stone’s throw from it.

The building has been the home of The Wayside Chapel since Reverend Ted Noffs and his wife embarked on their project in the 1960’s to provide love and compassion and social justice to those living under difficult circumstances in the Kings Cross area.

For those of our readers from overseas, Kings Cross in Sydney is the red-light district. It has always been colourful, but in recent years this area, Potts Point included, has been increasingly gentrified and the area has over the years become an interesting melange of the rich and poor co-existing in the same area, for example, within 50 metres of Wayside is one of the more elegant stores offering glassware and objects for the home.

However, it wasn’t like that when the Wayside began. It was an area filled with homelessness, drug addiction, poverty and mental illness. In fact, it all goes hand in hand – and part of that has shaped the character of the area for decades. The Wayside Chapel intended to be beacon of hope or as Samantha explained, the founding ethos is “love over hate”. Pretty simple really. And it seems to really play out there in everyday interactions between those that use the services that the Chapel offers and those that provide them. There is a sense of “anything goes” at Wayside, you are loved and respected no matter what gender you identify as, what religion or lack of religion you have, what your sexual preferences are, whether you are addicted to drugs and alcohol or not, the colour of your skin, whether you are homeless or not, your mental state of mind – none of it matters, all of it is accepted. And so, it has become a hub for so many interesting characters that come and go.

Upon the moment I arrived I was met by Gabby, an attractive younger woman I imagine could be in any industry she chose. She presented very well, well mannered, well groomed, simple, easy to talk to. Her clothes were earthy, a grey woolly vest, white t shirt, a black skirt and converse shoes. She explains that Samantha is running late, she’s just around the corner, and then we are interrupted by Andrew. He begins his monologue about Wayside and how he uses the services here, his background in addiction, his sexual preferences, the drugs he hates (heroin) and the ones he could easily go back to (cocaine). It is very amusing and within another minute another man was standing on top of a bench poising himself in a superhero stance and saying something that was between a declaration and a mumble. Very interesting characters indeed. In fact, it was like a portal back into the old Newtown, and the old Cross. Many of these characters are less prevalent these days, and a sort of hostility has brewed. The new guard seems to want the old guard out.

But The Wayside continues deliver services to those that have fallen through the cracks and really need somewhere to belong, that society has done everything to avoid confronting. Those are the words of Samantha, and she explains that they help with even things like creating bank accounts for those that have no identification. It is hard to understand what that is like for those of us that live within the confines of what one might consider “a regular life”. We have tax file numbers, companies that are registered, gas and electricity bills in our names and so on. These people are off the grid, often entirely. The average homeless person that visits the Wayside walks up to 28 kilometres a week just to find places to stay the night, between shelters and locations across the city like under bridges and in open parks. Samantha was a donor to Wayside before she began working here about a year and half ago, around the same time Gabby joined, she wanted to work somewhere that aligned with her values and where she could see the results of what her daily work accomplished. And she says she gets it in spades. That every day she goes to work she sees meaning and purpose in what she puts her hand to. Gabby’s story is similar. She was a graphic designer by education but then working in the advertising industry on products she found didn’t fit with her values she decided to throw in the towel. She says she loves what Wayside stands for and that the people who raise money for Wayside, the Wayside front liners and the people that frequent Wayside all interact to form a very unique community. It also means she feels that she can see the difference she is making on a daily level.

And one of the reasons that Wayside is so successful is that it doesn’t try to fix people and instead allows them to make their own decisions. If they want to remain addicted to drugs, Wayside doesn’t try to stop them. If they find it too hard to put a permanent roof over their head, Wayside doesn’t push them. Wayside merely tries to give them the services that are often denied to such people. When you walk 28km a week then you’d want to get that ingrown toenail fixed, so the doctor comes past to help with that. If you are the victim of domestic violence, they will help you start a fresh page. And on a more basic human level, if you are simply lonely and need connection, this is a form of home, especially for the homeless. You can take a hot shower, check in with the notice board, listen to live events each day of the week like poetry or jazz.

And yes, there is a chapel. It was until recently run by the Reverend Graham Long but in recent times it has been taken over by Pastor Jon Owen. It remains committed to the ethos of Love Over Hate and continues to hold a service each Sunday, which is open to all.

 

Samantha, myself and Gabby in front of the weekly entertainment board for The Wayside Chapel





 

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