Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Wayside gives food for thought:

Sydney's Wayside Chapel has been helping anyone who has needed it for 49 years.
Date: February 03 2013
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Reverend Graham Long of Wayside Chapel with Claudia Karvan.

Tom and Emily, two street kids from western NSW, are popping in to the youth space at the Wayside Chapel to say thanks and pick up their swags.

They're about to move into a flat in Surry Hills, only four months after arriving in Sydney after sleeping on the riverbank back home.

"The first day we came to the Cross we were told about the Wayside Chapel," says Tom, who had been using heroin since he was 14 and is now on a methadone program.

"We were nervous, because we'd never asked for help.

"They gave us the help we needed, helped us fill out our housing application ... it was a safe space."

They both hope to have jobs soon too.

The duo, originally from Bourke and Dubbo, are just two of the many young people Wayside has helped through its youth program.

Showing me around the space that has been converted to look like a homely apartment, youth worker Niki Morris wakes up a woman who is dozing on the couch.

"One of our main rules is no sleeping," she says of the come-and-go environment, explaining that if somebody is intoxicated and left they could fall into a coma.

On the wall of the kitchen is a huge puzzle, with names on individual puzzles, representing the theme of everybody fitting together in this space.

Between one and 22 youth between 12 and 25 may use the service any day, most homeless and some referred from other services.

They offer a free breakfast and two meal programs in the evenings but the rules are you have to clean up after yourself.

"If you find something in the cupboard you can make it," Morris says. "Or you can do shopping and use our facilities to cook it up.

"We empower and encourage them to take responsibility."

On Tuesdays Food For Thought enables a young person to invite a guest to come for dinner. And these have included actor Claudia Karvan, who is a Wayside Chapel ambassador.

Shopping and budgeting skills are also taught.

"Everybody's required to have a job. They come together to create a meal, have conversation, and turn the music down."

Volunteers also provide baking lessons, creative writing tutorials and cooking classes using produce from the rooftop garden.

If there are fights or arguments, staff attempt to calm them down and if necessary they are excluded for 48 hours or more.

"I don't feel judged," Emily says of this space. "We see most of the staff as friends."

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