Update: 23rd December 2020
Wayside Chapel has informed Eternity that Week of Christmas community lunches on Wednesday 23 and Christmas Eve 24 December, 12.30pm-2pm have been cancelled, but free takeaway food is still being offered to vulnerable people from our Kings Cross premises. The org is awaiting the Premier’s announcement and today’s health advice to decide whether they will go ahead with planned Christmas Day activities at Kings Cross and Bondi Beach. Updates will be made available by 3pm on the Wayside Chapel website and Facebook page.
Wayside Chapel is taking the lemons that 2020 life has handed out and is making lemonade this Christmas by hosting seven days of “Spirit of Christmas” festivities.
While their iconic annual Christmas Day Lunch and Street Party in Kings Cross, Sydney, are not happening due to COVID-19 health restrictions, the Wayside team are going to extra lengths to spread the Christmas cheer so nobody gets left behind.
“We will still provide the gift of conversation, a seat at the table, and a nutritious Christmas meal to show people they are loved and not forgotten.” – Jon Owen
Over the seven days leading up to Christmas, Wayside will host free daily ‘Spirit of Christmas’ community lunches from this Friday, through to Thursday, December 24, at Wayside Chapel Kings Cross.
Nutritious, freshly cooked meals with all the trimmings will be served to people experiencing isolation and homelessness. Seats will be strictly limited to ensure COVID-Safe limitations are met.
Wayside will also provide free takeaway meals on Christmas Day, with very limited seating provided, so the most vulnerable are not forgotten. A festive spirit also will be provided to the people on the streets who are met by Wayside’s vans, and outreach teams.
These are just some of the many ways that the iconic Sydney charity has had to ‘pivot’ its operations this year due to the pandemic.
Jon Owen, Pastor and CEO of Wayside Chapel, says that “many people have nowhere to go on Christmas Day, are hungry, have no support networks or are simply not welcome anywhere else.”
“It’s a time when people remember what they have lost and feel acutely lonely.
“Our ‘Spirit of Christmas’ community lunches in the seven days before Christmas may not have the fanfare of our usual street party, but we will still provide the gift of conversation, a seat at the table, and a nutritious Christmas meal to show people that they are loved and not forgotten.”
The 2020 Foodbank Hunger Report says that since COVID-19, three in ten Australians are now experiencing food insecurity that had not gone hungry before. And those seeking food relief from charities at least once per week has doubled in the last year to 38 per cent (in NSW and ACT alone).
Wayside Chapel is one of only a handful of organisations who will continue to offer support for those experiencing homelessness and social isolation over the Christmas and New Year period.
Many turn to Wayside Chapel over this period because their doors remain open at a time when people need it the most. They will also continue to provide low-cost meals from their Sydney cafes, which have only just re-opened after many months.
“Earlier this year during the pandemic, Wayside moved quickly to ensure that the most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness and isolation were still able to access care,” Owen says.
“From April to July alone, we provided over 17,000 instances of support, as we saw an influx of people in need.
“This holiday season we are expecting another type of Christmas rush as more people seek our help as they struggle with loneliness and putting food on the table.”
Eternity’s readers can take part by ‘Donating a Plate’ to cover the cost of feeding a person experiencing homelessness.