NewHope Baptist Church and Crossway Baptist Church(part of the Churches of Whitehorse) alongside Croydon Hills Baptist Church have begun their inaugural Winter Shelter this year where they use their buildings as venues to respond to homelessness by providing a warm, safe and supportive space for people to seek shelter during winter.
The Winter Shelter Program has been running in other municipalities around Victoria for a few years now, but in 2020 the churches of Whitehorse became united to begin ‘Whitehorse Churches Care’ to host a Winter Shelter in the municipality of Whitehorse.
Kerryn Pell was appointed as Coordinator & around 30 churches have been meeting to plan, pray & initiate the program to house up to 10 homeless people over the 13 weeks of Winter.
NewHope Baptist Church:
Phil Gaudion of NewHope Baptist Church says, “We actually got right up to the line of launching Winter Shelter in 2020 but the lock down in March that year put a complete shutdown to the process and we were unable to start[.] Thankfully the Victorian Government initiated a program to house many homeless people in hotels around the state to keep people off the streets during the height of the Covid pandemic and now in 2021 we’ve been able to launch with over 200 volunteers and 6 churches, providing venues to sleep people, feed them and even offer a day centre.”
Despite the program taking a pause in early 2021 due to the snap lockdown, by the 2nd week of July when restrictions were eased, everyone was ready to take in guests— Local Council Temporary Occupancy Permits for each church building were acquired and all volunteers have been recruited and trained with shifts all scheduled.
Viv Siede, one of the volunteers commented, “What a privilege to be part of the first evening of the Winter Shelter that actually took place. Even though there was just the one client, we’re reminded that the Lord as our good shepherd, leaves the 99 to rescue the one!”
Referring to his brief experience at the Winter Shelter one guest was overwhelmed with gratitude, “You care, you’re different to anywhere else. I feel safe.”
Marilyn Burke one of the Venue Coordinators at NewHope Baptist Church says, “It’s been so great already even over one week to be meeting so many wonderful people from other churches in the area, and it’s a joy to be working together on a project like this”.
Crossway Baptist Church:
Matt Jones, the Community and Engagement Team Leader at Crossway LifeCare says:
“We’re really excited to be able to run this project in Whitehorse. It has many positive outcomes. The first and most obvious one is that we get to help to provide support and care to some of our most vulnerable neighbours. Secondly, we enjoy working together with other churches from different denominations and build relationships between local church communities. And thirdly, for the volunteers supporting this project, they enter on a discipleship journey where God can stretch and inspire and train us while we take steps out of our comfort zones to support people in complex situations.
On Wednesday, 7 July we had our first night with a guest. Grateful for the chance to sleep comfortably in a safe environment, our guest said that he felt “so good to be in a safe and welcoming place” and he quite overwhelmed by it and that though he’s seen all the other available housing options, staying at the Whitehorse Winter Shelter care was so much better than anything else he’s experienced while homeless.
As we hopefully continue to grow over the next few weeks of winter, we’re really looking forward to this becoming an annual event for our churches in Whitehorse.”
WinterShelter will continue to run over the remaining 8 weeks of Winter to provide a place of hope, refuge, love and care to those needing a warm meal & place to sleep over during the coldest time of the year in Melbourne.
Visit whitehorsechurchescare.org.au to find out more.
Croydon Hills Baptist Church:
Gitta Clayton, the Community Engagement Coordinator at Croydon Hills Baptist Church updates us on their program:
“In 2018 and 2019 Maroondah Winter Shelter provided overnight shelter and meals to homeless males over Winter. In 2020 because of the pandemic, we adapted the program to provide over 11,000 takeaway meals to people in the community and homeless people in motels. We also provided meals to the staff from a circus in Bayswater who were unable to open.
This winter we have once again opened the doors of seven different churches in Maroondah to provide overnight shelter, a safe warm place to sleep, a hot shower and a homemade meal. Our guest numbers are slowly increasing as word gets around. Our guests appreciate all that we offer but most of all that they are cared for, listened to and know that they are welcome to stay with us.”