Nourishing Hope: Inside BHAC’s Food Relief Program
Bowen Miller

Hello, my name is Helen and I am the Office Administrator at Burleigh Heads Anglican Church (BHAC). This is an insight into what we do at BHAC in the parish office, especially in relation to food relief, so here goes…

Aside from the general parish office paperwork, daily admin duties, hall hire, pew bulletin and news sheet, BHAC is a community hub where the parish office creates a valuable resource for those experiencing hardship, offering both practical assistance and emotional support.

Our food relief program plays a crucial role in providing assistance to individuals and families facing food insecurity, and our parish office serves as a non-judgmental safe space, free of stigma and criticism, where individuals can access food assistance without fear of being judged.

For over 30 years the food relief program has been running, and June Stephenson is now the only remaining person still involved from the founding years. June took over the accounts back in 1996 and is still highly involved in all aspects of food relief!  Our first government grant came in the late 90’s and we still receive this.  There are certain guidelines that we have to follow as to how the government grant can be spent and also who qualifies for help.  We choose to purchase Woolworths gift cards with the majority of our funding.

Aside from the government grant, we also receive donations from our own parishioners, our wonderful Robina parishioners and from the general community.  These donations come in the form of monetary offerings, as well as food and gifts to hand out.  One lady from the general community heard about what we do and makes us the most beautiful bags into which she puts toiletries and sanitary items, as well as books and toys – she specifically requests that these items go to women suffering domestic violence and their children.

At this stage, BHAC can only supply non-perishable food to clients, and this is limited, as we do not have the space to store huge amounts of food.

Throughout the year, we collect new gifts for children which go into our Christmas hampers at the end of the year, along with a Woolworths gift card and a huge amount of food and Christmas treats. We are also blessed to have incredible volunteers who collect food voucher donations from local businesses (Govindas in James Street and KFC Miami) so that people can receive a free meal at their establishment.

We offer a variety of clothes to anyone who is homeless. Donations of good quality T-shirts, shorts, tracksuit pants, hoodies, boxer shorts and thongs are always welcome if anyone is having a sort out and would like to support our cause. Our Thrift Shop is also a great resource for clothing, homewares etc. which is donated to the people in need of those items.

Sadly, the amount of people who are now living in a homeless situation (this may be physically on the street, in a car, a tent in a friend’s back yard, using a storage facility or ‘couch surfing’) has become a much bigger statistic since covid hit in 2019.

Individuals experiencing homelessness, particularly women, often find themselves isolated and living in a constant state of fear and anxiety. They are unsure of how they will be treated by the community, which can often be derogatory or violent. Additionally, they face uncertainty about where they will find a safe place to sleep at night, among many other challenges.  With further daily obstacles such as where to shower and make themselves presentable, finding work is incredibly difficult.

There is still much to learn about homelessness. The general public’s views on homelessness can vary widely. Some individuals may hold misconceptions that homelessness is solely a result of personal choices or laziness, while others may recognise the complex factors that contribute such as economic hardship, mental health issues and lack of affordable housing. It is important that as Christians we promote empathy, understanding and awareness to combat stigma and support effective solutions for addressing homelessness in our communities.

The truth is that homelessness can impact anyone regardless of their background. With the significant rise in the cost of living over the past year, financial struggles have affected many individuals considered ‘average,’ leading to a cascade of challenges such as addiction, domestic violence, job loss, and mental health issues. These issues pose a real concern for a diverse range of our community.

Thank you for the incredible support that so many people have given to our food relief, your generosity is greatly valued and appreciated.  Further, you can be assured that every donation goes directly to the needy.

Helen Reeds

Office Administrator – Burleigh Heads Anglican Church