Meet the shelter that offers more than food and a place to sleep
It’s Saturday night at Christ Church St Laurence. The kitchen is bustling with cooks, the hall is lined with beds and homeless men from the local area are here for “Cana”, a charity shelter hosted in conjunction with the church, where they can receive a nutritious meal and a warm, safe place to sleep.
Run by a team of volunteers, mostly from CCSL alongside some other local parishes, Sydney’s homeless men find physical nourishment as well as a sense of community and care.
"We pray that we might have as big an impact as possible"
“Some of the men will be people I’ve seen before, returning men, and others you might see once,” says volunteer Francesca Jones, who has been serving at Cana for the past 18 months. “Being accepted, having others around you, having a charity to turn to helps you feel like people aren’t just ignoring you or your situation.”
Ms Jones likes to ensure each man who comes along feels loved. “We always serve and clear the table, so they feel a little bit special and cared for,” she says. “I put a chocolate on each pillow so it feels like a hotel.”
Christ Church St Laurence reflects the diversity of Sydney, according to rector the Rev Dr Daniel Dries.
“We have a multicultural parish, with a lot of business people passing through and also a lot of homeless people,” he says. “Our local community is not reflective of our congregations. People come from all areas to our church with a heart to serve the local community in all its diversity.”
Alongside the Saturday night shelter, CCSL opens its doors every weekday
Their passion is inspired by St Laurence, who was martyred in the 3rd century after being asked to hand in the treasury of the church to Rome. Instead, he brought the trasure that God values: the poor, outcast, blind and lame.
“He was a good figure to be inspired by because there was a sense that God has a special love for the outcasts,” Dr Dries says. “I think it’s wonderful if people see the church as a place that offers compassion, safety and hospitality.”
The volunteers recognise the importance of their work in serving and caring for the surrounding community, and ask God to ensure their church is always able to provide help in this way.
“There’s no shortage of homeless men to help,” Ms Jones says. “But we pray we might have as big an impact as possible.”