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Emmanuel City Mission shares ‘consistency in the midst of chaos’

Caring hearts: Emmanuel City Mission director Roby Curtis at the South Brisbane homeless centre, with volunteers behind preparing food for the midday meal. Photos: Joe Higgins

IN South Brisbane there is a home for the homeless that does not count the days of the week.

It didn’t matter what day you rocked up, the volunteers at Emmanuel City Mission, formerly known as Blind Eye Ministries, would take care of you.

Emmanuel City Mission director Roby Curtis said he saw about 80 homeless and vulnerable people per day at the daytime centre now that it had opened its doors seven days a week.

But there was a glaring problem.

He said it might seem sensible by “conventional minds” that it was okay to have a centre open only on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and to shut on Mondays and Fridays.

“What if you wake up not knowing what day of the week it is, but you’ve got to get two-and-a-half kilometres to get that daily sustenance and you’re not quite sure what days we’re open,” he said.

“We wanted to make sure you knew everyday at 12pm there’s a feed, every morning from 9am, there’s cereal, tea and coffee, (that) there’s place for a shower.

“Consistency in the midst of chaos.”

Mr Curtis said opening seven days a week brought its share of challenges, but “more graces than anything”.

“We believe this is a Christ-centred place where people prosper by coming here,” he said.

“They know that the streets don’t collide in here, so you don’t bring the street culture and street affairs in here, (what) you bring in here is yourself as a person and the dignity of your human person.

“You might be a heavily tattooed person, you may be a First Nations person, you may be someone who’s confused in whoever you are; whoever and whatever you are, you’re welcome here.

“There’s no one that’s not welcome here.”

The mission also underwent a brand change, which he had thought about for some time.

Emmanuel City Mission better reflected the heart of the mission – Jesus with us – and veered away from the “almost protest” that Blind Eye Ministries represented.

And with the brand change came acceleration towards their primary mission.

He said it was not just to be an excellent, state-of-the-art, homeless service provider in the community, but to be part of the Church’s mission and its evangelisation in a time of renewal.

Holy place: A small wooden shelter housing the tabernacle of the centre.

Mr Curtis sourced hope from Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Joy of the Gospel, where he talked about the bruised, dirty and hurting Church.

“That’s something we’re trying to do in this room… is trying to capture really intentional, deliberate church culture,” he said.

He said the ministry reached out to the secular, warehouse, West End feel, but with the collision of the “beauty of statues and ceiling mounted icons… and the Corpus of the Lord”.

“The Holy Father is calling us to that, bro.

“That’s honestly who we are and what we’re in the pursuit of; we’ve got no reason to speak Catholic bravado, it’s just who we are, it’s who I am, it’s what I’m pursuing personally.”

Vulnerability was being felt by many Australians for the first time in a long time, too, because of the threat of coronavirus.

“I think we’re all kind of concerned about if we’re going to have toilet paper, but guess what – what if you’ve never had a toilet before?” Mr Curtis said.

“(What if you have) never known that since the day you were really born, apart from maybe the various stages of institutionalised care or whatever it may be.

“That’s one step further in vulnerability, (in) your whole life never knowing some of the things that we’re now concerned about in the day to day… the resources that make up our safe, comfortable lives.”

Coronavirus impacted on support work too.

Mr Curtis said personal hygiene was the defining factor with “disinfectant and detergent running wild” at the centre.

He said he needed all the help he could get.

“The biggest struggle we’re facing at the moment is just setbacks within our fundraising,” he said.

“We’re chasing support across the coming three months.”

The centre offered laundry and shower services, as well as free meals and clothing for those who needed the help.

Emmanuel City Mission was a ministry of the Emmanuel Community and you can offer your support behind it by visiting the website: emmanuelcitymission.com

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