2016 LIFELINK WINTER APPEAL: Friendliness is no front at The Shopfront
Benn Roberts, pictured in front of The Shopfront’s Memorial Wall, has received public transport and clothing vouchers to help him get back on his feet. Photo: Rachel Curry
By Rachel Curry
As part of the Archbishop’s 2016 Winter Appeal for LifeLink, The eRecord is this month taking a closer look at the work of organisations such as Identitywa, Centrecare, Catholic Ministry for People who are Deaf or Hearing Impaired, Daydawn, Emmaus Community, Emmanuel Centre, Centacare Employment & Training, The Shopfront and Catholic Outreach.
LifeLink is the umbrella organisation that provides ongoing funding support for the Church’s social service agencies, which deliver professional services and caring assistance to thousands of people in need throughout Western Australia each year.
One of LifeLink’s most well-known agencies is The Shopfront, a drop-in and referral centre offering support and friendship to people experiencing difficulties dealing with problems in their lives.
These problems may include homelessness, financial stress, hunger, depression, loneliness, addiction and violence.
The eRecord journalist, Rachel Curry, recently spoke to The Shopfront visitors Benn Roberts and Irene Anderson to get an insight into what makes this Maylands centre so special.
Benn Roberts has not been dealt the easiest hand in life.
Growing up as a ward of the state in Victoria, he was constantly moved between foster homes, which prevented him from gaining even a basic education.
Mr Roberts overcame his tough childhood to find secure work as a forklift driver, but he recently fell on hard times after going through a divorce and moving from Queensland to Perth.
Despite suffering what he calls “a series of unfortunate events”, he does not feel even a little sorry for himself.
“(Growing up in foster care) hasn’t made my life easier but it’s made me want to do more for myself,” he said.
“I’ve always had that positive attitude. There’s always someone worse off than you.”
Part of the reason Mr Roberts is so sanguine is due to The Shopfront, an Archdiocesan LifeLink agency in Maylands that offers hospitality, fellowship and practical assistance to people in need.
He said The Shopfront was different to other organisations because of the acceptance and understanding offered to every person who came through the door.
“I’ve been coming here for the past month and a half. They’re always here to help you with a coffee and a sandwich,” he said.
“You meet some good, kind-hearted people. They’re genuine people, compared to some others out there.”
Mr Roberts, who is currently sleeping rough after having his belongings stolen while living in shared accommodation, has received clothing vouchers, public transport vouchers and blankets from The Shopfront.
However, he said the support and encouragement he had received from people such as Director Brian Tierney were just as important.
He has stopped himself from falling back into bad habits and is now enrolled in a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, with a view to starting his own business.
“It’s not about ‘poor me’. It’s about how you’re going to pull yourself out of it. There’s people like Brian here who will sit down and listen to you and help you,” he said.
Irene Anderson, pictured at The Shopfront’s entrance on Whatley Crescent in Maylands, says it is nice to see friendly and familiar faces when she visits the agency. Photo: Rachel Curry
Irene Anderson is another person who has been assisted by The Shopfront.
Ms Anderson, who has bipolar disorder and is on a disability pension, first came to the agency four years ago.
“The reason why I came here was one of my friends comes here often. I’d lost my father and he said, ‘If you feel lonely, come in here and be with people’,” she said.
“(The volunteers) are very friendly. A lot of them will greet you with a hug and a kiss.”
The 61-year-old is currently seeking assistance from The Shopfront for groceries and an overdue bill.
She said it didn’t take much for people to find themselves in financial hardship, particularly when they had health problems, and even if they appeared to be doing well.
“I look well dressed, but I’m struggling,” she said.
Ms Anderson recently wrote a letter of gratitude to one of The Shopfront’s volunteers, summing up why this humble agency is so important.
“You’re so dedicated and loyal in the long hours that you do so frequently. Your blood is worth bottling!” she wrote.
“I love to sit down and have a cuppa and something to eat. Life at the moment is very busy but also rewarding. The Shopfront is a great place to relax and make new friends.
“In particular, I feel all the volunteers do such a brilliant service to all the many people that walk through the doors. Their care is a gift from God.”
Your generous support of the Archbishop’s 2016 Winter Appeal for LifeLink ensures organisations like The Shopfront continue their ‘mission of care’ to assist people most in need in the community.
The goal this year is to raise more than $300,000. To donate to LifeLink, please visit www.lifelink.com.au.