Soup kitchen facing homelessness

Leslie Baul sitting down after a full day of cooking for and serving 90 people. Photo by Cadena McKenzie.
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A soup kitchen in Croydon is facing homelessness, writes Cadena McKenzie.

 

A weekly soup kitchen in Croydon is facing homelessness, according to the project manager.

Leslie Baul, who runs the Vive Café soup kitchen, says its future is insecure after being placed on an impermanent lease.

Mr Baul says the lease arrangements are not good enough. “A month-to-month lease is inhumane” he says.

A spokesperson for the landlord says it is not an eviction. “We’ve never taken the position they are being kicked out. They do provide a good service to the community and they have been there a long time. We have tried to be as supportive as we can as a landlord.”

However, Mr Baul is worried about the ability to continue to feed 90-120 people a night if Vive Café is unable to find replacement facilities nearby. “People are coming in from other councils like Knox and the city, which tells me they aren’t meeting the needs in their areas,” says Mr Baul.

The crackdown on homelessness in the city is not doing anything to help those in need, says Mr Baul. “It’s not addressing the problem, it’s just pushing them out of the beautiful city, away from the pretty high-rises.

“Homelessness in our attendees has jumped by 600 per cent.”

Rebecca Auryant, the Victorian director for Adventist Disaster Relief Agency (ADRA) and member of the Vive Café board, says rises in rent is putting vulnerable people in positions of exploitation.

“People are paying private landlords for permission to pitch a tent in their back yard,” says Ms Auryant.

Rebecca Auryant, director of Adventist Disaster Relief Agency, in front of Vive Café. Photo by Cadena McKenzie.

Josephine Lynch, who has been attending Vive Café for two years, has recently had an increase in rental costs by $170 per week. “Because we are such a large family we have to take what we can get,” she says.

Ms Lynch has tried other soup kitchens available in surrounding areas. “This one is the only one we continue to go to,” she says. “It has a completely different atmosphere than the others. You kind of feel you are sitting down to a gourmet meal.

“I was blown away the first time I came here. We have a real plate and real knives and forks and if you want seconds, you can get it if you really need it.”

As part of its community focus, Vive Café has formed a partnership with training service KYM to allow people with disabilities to gain experience and skills in hospitality while preparing a hot three course meal.

The partnerships with KYM and ADRA, as well as donations from Foodbank Victoria and Second Bite (Coles) allow Vive Café to run on little more than volunteers. With less than $10,000 in operating costs, Mr Baul has calculated that Vive Cafe is making a $300,000 “footprint” in the community.

Vive Café also provides services such as a kids club, grocery services and an op shop.

Ms Lynch says, “We couldn’t survive without it.”