Winsome's workload on rise amid upgrades
THE general manager of The Winsome & Lismore Soup Kitchen, Paul Murphy, says the "pub with no beer" has been busier than ever.
Currently about 20 marginalised men reside at The Winsome's residential facilities, while about 70 meals are served each and every day thanks to roughly 50 volunteers.
Mr Murphy, who's been volunteering for about five years and previously worked in a prison ministry, believes there's room for another homelessness outreach centre in town, and demand will continue to escalate.
"I think there's definitely a gradual increase," Mr Murphy said.
"We could do with another facility in town. The need is always going to be here.
"We can't expand on this site due to our location on flood plains."
Mr Murphy noted that mental health was the predominant, but not the only, reason men ended up staying at The Winsome.
He said the facility undoubtedly helped men back onto the right track in times of strife or poverty.
"It's a centre of community and social inclusion and people can come here, chat and be safe," he said.
"It's a blessing and we're fortunate to have The Winsome in Lismore.
"And we're lucky to be in Lismore. The community's generosity keeps us running.
"It costs $100,000 a year to run and we receive no (recurrent) government funding."
Mr Murphy was proud to say: "There's a trend nationwide for volunteers to be in decline, but that's not the case at The Winsome."
Volunteer and former resident Jim Houghton, who has found a home, described The Winsome as a "life-saver".
"Whether male, female, poor or not, it's a place to come and get off the street," he said.
"Without this place there'd be a lot more violence, drunkenness, people stealing - it'd be totally negative."
Current resident Geoff Prodger, who holds a degree in commerce, found himself suddenly homeless.
"I lost my job through illness. I was in need," he said.
"The people here saved my life. It's a great place but it's time for me to move on."
To donate, visit winsome.org.au or drop into the premises at Bridge St, North Lismore.
Important upgrades under way
THE Winsome and Lismore Soup Kitchen has been undergoing important upgrades to keep pace with a growing number of people seeking its help.
An $18,000 grant from Northern Rivers Community Foundation has enabled a substantial upgrade of the building's ageing kitchen.
Meanwhile, a $20,000 grant from North Coast Medicare Local (now North Coast Primary Health Network), $10,000 from the Lismore Diocesan Office of the St Vincent de Paul Society and an in-house contribution have allowed construction of a small doctor's room, nurse treatment room and a small waiting and administration room.
A loan from a volunteer will also enable an upgrade of the building's deteriorating hot water system.
To top off the much-needed improvements, a resident named Nick has repainted hallways, the stairwell, windows, balcony doors and railings.
Paul Murphy, The Winsome's general manager, said the upgrades were sorely needed and would provide a more welcoming environment for residents.
"We'll have a doctor of a Wednesday for two hours, at this stage," he said.
"No one would have foreseen this actually happening three years ago.
"It's taken us to another level and increases the services we can provide."
Mr Murphy said The Winsome's premises, which date back to the late 1800s, would need constant maintenance in coming years.
"We have a long wish list, I suppose, which is a very expensive wish list ... as you can imagine, in a building as old as this there's recurring costs and upgrades," he said.
"We're going through fire (safety) upgrade, and that's a continual progress.
"We've updated the sprinkler system to a state-of-the-art system."
Its disabled access points also need to be improved for wheelchair users.
"We're like the Harbour Bridge - start at one end and build up as we go across," Mr Murphy said.
The Winsome was purchased by the Lismore Soup Kitchen in 2009 and helps local community members doing it tough.
What is The Winsome?
- Provides housing and other services to disadvantaged men.
- Offers meals to those struggling to get by.
- A social hub for marginalised members of society.