In the darkness of the coldest of winter nights they sleep huddled behind between buildings or hidden in parkland in Ballarat.
Five times a week, they stand by the front steps of the Civic Hall in the shadows of the dim street lights as they wait for one of the city’s biggest lifelines for the homeless to roll in.
Like clockwork, the bright lights of the Soup Bus fill the derelict site.
Volunteers open up the doors and windows ready to feed the city’s most vulnerable. This winter, the outreach service desperately needs your help.
Volunteers say there is a severe shortage of groceries like canned food, long-life milk and sugar to help vulnerable families living on the streets or those who are struggling financially.
Ballarat Soup Bus board member and co-ordinator Lorraine Gittings said the service was also in need of warm winter blankets, jackets, coats, socks and shoes.
There is also growing need for more swags and toiletries like shampoo, conditioners, sanitary items, deodorant and soap.
In the midst of winter in 2014 the city was left reeling after a young homeless couple in Cardigan were found dead in car from a butane heater they were using to warm themselves up.
“That must never happen again,” Ms Gittings said. “We don’t want to have to turn anyone for something they may need.”
Ms Gittings said there had been a surge in the number of people visiting the bus in recent months including an increase in elderly women unable to make ends meet, middle aged men and women and children fleeing family violence.
“It takes a lot of courage for them to access the bus because they have a lot of pride,” Ms Gittings said. “We never judge a person, we never turn a person away.”
She said the greatest challenge facing the city’s most vulnerable was lack of affordable housing.
“There are many people living in their cars, couch surfing or sleeping on the streets,” Ms Gittings said.
“For them, the Soup Bus provides not just a hot meal, but conversation and friendship.”
Since volunteers made a public appeal for help, donations have flooded in for across Australia. Any donations can be dropped off at the Ballarat East Men’s Shed, 730 Eureka Street, between 9.30am and 11am every Saturday. To contact the service call 5331 6111.
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