The cafe serving up hope for a different life

In Newcastle, Soul Cafe does more than just offer a free meal.

When Steve first arrived at Soul Cafe, he was an addict looking for a meal.

“I just wanted to get off whatever I was doing at the time … the substances, the alcohol. I wanted to change my life around.”

That was 14 years ago. Now, Steve helps run a recovery programme at Soul Cafe in Newcastle to help others get over their addictions.

“I get a bit out of it too, when I turn up. You’re never over it. One more drink, and you’re back on it again. It helps me keep my life in check, too. We’ve seen some good results.”

Soul Cafe in Newcastle, north of Sydney, provides over 700 free meals a week to disadvantaged members of the community. Rick Prosser, Soul Cafe’s CEO, says the cafe looks to serve “some of the city’s poorest and most vulnerable people. They might be homeless, or just people doing it really tough.”

“They just love the culture, and love what we’re doing.” — Rick Prosser, Soul Cafe

“We do that around a meal. And the meal paves the way … it meets the initial need but the type of folk that we serve, some of them carry very complex and deep needs, and addictions.”

The meals at Soul Cafe link guests into other services they might need, including drug and alcohol recovery programmes, accommodation assistance and mental health counselling.

The cafe was started by Life Church, which Rick and his wife Sue lead. It opened its doors in 2003 and has received funding from the church community as well as local business sponsorships.

“Life Church itself is not a big church, but the charitable work in the community is huge,” says Rick. The cafe is run by over 100 volunteers every week, most of whom don’t go to church.

“They just love the culture, and love what we’re doing,” says Rick. “For us, it’s a great thrill to journey with folk who are journeying with us.”

“It’s part of the church’s mandate to fill the cracks that people fall through.” — Rick Prosser

Rick hopes that Soul Cafe is catering for the “whole person”.

“We want to see people recover from substance abuse and hardship … but we also want to see spiritual recovery. We want to help people come to the Lord.”

Respond to the Lord or not, Rick says the cafe will be there to help people regardless.

“It’s part of the church’s mandate to fill the cracks that people fall through.”