It’s a rare moment when we come face-to-face with homeless people in our community and a brief reminder that there are people just like us who, due to a combination of circumstances, are doing it tough.
As we show our solidarity with them on a cold August morning, there is a spirit of goodwill that stays with us as we return to our warm offices and schools or cosy homes, far removed from the complex problems of the homeless.
For more than six decades the Hutt St Centre has been part of the south-western precinct of the city. A history of the Daughters of Charity, who were invited to Adelaide by Archbishop Beovich in 1954, tells us: “With no money and depending entirely on ‘divine providence’, three Sisters set about trying to respond to one of the basic needs of life by providing meals through sandwiches and a jar of tea to the men who used to line up down the back alley of the centre off Gillies Street.”
Since then, hundreds of thousands of South Australians from all walks of life have served meals there, and many local businesses and corporate leaders have provided their support in different ways. Our first female Governor, Dame Roma Mitchell, would often attend Mass at the chapel and was a generous benefactor.
In the early days, one of the centre’s biggest supporters was Bert Edwards, a city councillor, publican and philanthropist whose name still adorns the current kitchen.
How sad that today we have certain city councillors who seem to think that the services provided by the Hutt St Centre to the whole community are no longer a good fit with that part of the city.
This is despite the fact that the police have said there has been no increase in crime and it is low in proportion to other parts of the city.
One volunteer told me recently that in all the years he had been helping in the kitchen, he had never once felt threatened. He recalled only one occasion when a distressed client had started to get upset and the staff had quietly and effectively dealt with the matter.
Similarly, a number of traders have rejected claims the street is unsafe, with one café owner saying he has never had to call the police in the 17 years he’s been there and others talking up the friendly community vibe in the area.
The Hutt St Centre has enormous support from the people and leadership of the Catholic Church, the State Government and the wider community. We can only hope that the voice of a small minority does not take precedence over the amazing work that the organisation has been doing for 64 years and continues to do today to help alleviate homelessness.