Night Patrol Offers Much More than a Meal

Thursday 5 August 2021

More than 1,100 people were found to be sleeping rough during the most recent NSW Statewide Street Count held earlier this year.

Almost half of those counted were based in the Greater Sydney region.

With so many individuals and families facing hardship across Australia’s largest city, the support provided by Vinnies’ Metropolitan Van Services is invaluable in alleviating various forms of disadvantage.

Operating across five locations ranging from the heart of the City out to the Western Suburbs, the assertive mobile outreach service – fondly known as Night Patrol – acts as an opportunity for people to gather in a place where they will be accepted and not judged.

For many of those who frequent the service, our volunteers and members are often the only people that they speak to all day, allaying one of the greatest fears amongst those experiencing homelessness and disadvantage – loneliness.

According to Josie Charbel, Vinnies Metropolitan Van Services Coordinator, the Night Patrol is about meeting the needs of the people within our community by supporting them, acknowledging their situation and listening to their stories without judgement.

“It’s about loving people back to life – we let them know they are cared for and part of a community,” says Josie.

For Josie, who has worked with the St Vincent de Paul Society for 12 years after first starting out as a volunteer, the Night Patrol embodies Vinnies’ ethos of giving people a ‘hand up, not a handout’.

Acting in a similar capacity to the support offered by Vinnies’ members with home visitations, the enduring impact of the Night Patrol lays in being primarily centred on companionship rather than food.

“We focus on supporting people who are isolated and lonely, and connecting them back to the community.”

Throughout Sydney, there are over 115 teams that make up Vinnies’ Metropolitan Van Services, comprising of school groups, community groups, parish groups, university groups, young adult groups, corporates, and independent groups that go out based on a four-week roster cycle.

Each team, consisting of 7-15 volunteers, engage with people from all age groups who are marginalised or experiencing homelessness, providing them with companionship, food and referrals onto other support services.

Unfortunately, when the pandemic hit last year, all Metropolitan Van Services were suspended until 1 April 2021. Now with this new lockdown, services have had to be suspended again. The impacts of COVID have been especially felt by our homeless community, who do not have a home to go to and feel safe in, and many of whom rely heavily on our van services.

Despite this latest setback Josie remains heartened by the generosity and empathy of the Night Patrol community.

“Even if we serve one person at night that is enough. We have provided some hope showing them they are cared for and not alone.”

We are always looking for volunteers to help out, let us know if you'd like to get involved.