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Mission in Kings Cross

FORMER Rosies Youth Mission Brisbane co-ordinator Dominic Mapstone and volunteer Gerry Denton are planning to start an outreach program for homeless people and young people in juvenile detention in Sydney later this month.

Rebecca’s Community Trust, named after a girl who has lived on the streets of Brisbane since she was 13, will be run under the auspices of Centacare and will be based in the Jesuit-run Kings Cross parish.

Gerry said it was the determination that Rebecca showed and her will to keep everyone else going which inspired them to use her name.

‘If someone was really down Rebecca would be there for them even though she had as much stuff to deal with as anyone else,’ Gerry said.

‘I guess a lot of what we want to take from her name are those sorts of qualities, like when the going gets tough it’s not going to change the fact that we are still going to be there for them (the streeties, as the homeless call themselves).’

Gerry said recruiting a community of volunteers would play a big part in starting the organisation.

‘Actually building a community of volunteers so they feel part of something,’ Gerry said.

‘We will recruit them through parish appeals, universities, parish newsletters, word of mouth, basically all through the Catholic Church.’

He said most of the people they were looking for would be between the ages of 18 and 35 and some older people, what they call the auntie/uncle age people.

‘If young offenders don’t have contact with family it can sometimes benefit them to have auntie/uncle age people to talk to,’ Gerry said.

Dominic said: ‘Our main priority is getting a really strong Christian community of young volunteers and keeping that focus on faith development through doing ministry work.’

The pair will start doing street work and working with the juvenile justice system at first.

‘The reason why we’re starting with those two is because that’s where our hearts lie and it’s something we know how to do very well,’ Dominic said.

‘We’ll also use the set up in Sydney archdiocese as a foundation from which to expand to the dioceses of Broken Bay, Wollongong, Wagga Wagga, Lismore, Wilcannia-Forbes and Maitland Newcastle.’

‘I can see in a number of years from now we’ll be visiting every other person in custody in NSW and working the Sydney city streets we’ve identified through our research, and later we’ll be visiting the rural and regional centres such as Newcastle or Wagga Wagga.’

The idea to start an outreach service from scratch in Sydney was born in November 2002.

Gerry and Dominic said they were both at a stage where they needed a new challenge.

In February, they went to Sydney for two weeks to undertake research.

They spoke to people in the Church, government services, police and people on the streets.

Dominic said one of the most symbolic things he found while doing the research was that in one location in the city the homeless were being fed by a different service every 15 minutes for a period of two hours.

‘Now I can’t believe that every 15 minutes one service would be there, dish out all the hand outs, pack up and were on their way and another would take its place,’ he said.

‘One would probably see the other one leaving as it was coming.

‘If you’re in Sydney and you’re hungry it’s just because you’re disorganised.’

Dominic said homelessness was not about a lack of shelter, it was about a lack of being connected to people.

He said even the most helpful services still treated homeless people like clients or customers.

‘So looking at it from that aspect we’re not going down there to give out food, blankets or clothing or put people into houses, we’re going down down there to try and build a community between volunteers and the homeless people or young people in juvenile justice,’ he said.

‘We’re going to have between 16 and 20 volunteers on each team and we’ll stay in one location for about two hours.

‘Once the streeties have worked out we are here as their friends, we are here to build relationships, then they will accept us.’

Dominic said leaving Rosies and moving to Sydney had been a big decision.

‘I think moving away from our friends and family will be very difficult,’ he said.

‘For me it’s also difficult moving away from the people I know on the street because I’ve known them for nine years. They are my other family, they are the kind of friendships that you don’t let go easily, but a number of them said they will pop in and say hello down in Sydney.’

For more information on Rebecca’s Community Trust contact Dominic or Gerry on (0422) 306 096.

To make a donation send cheques, made payable to Centacare, to Kings Cross Catholic Parish, 28 Roslyn St, Elizabeth Bay, NSW 2011.

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