Remembering Those Who Have Left Us

Friday 21 August 2020

Caring for those who come to us seeking help is central to the Society’s mission, and nowhere is this better personified than at Sydney’s Matthew Talbot Hostel and Vinnies homeless drop-in centre Fred’s Place in Tweed Heads.

Named after two significant figures of the Society, the services provide a range of emergency care for those doing it tough, often living on the streets and suffering a range of significant health problems, both physical and mental. For these reasons, tragically, a number of service users have a shortened life span and come our way towards the end of their lives.

“Earlier this year one of our regular men entered Matthew Talbot for respite after his partner had died in his arms at his unit,” recalls Joy Bowen, Mission and Spirituality partner for the hostel’s guests.

“We created a beautiful memorial for her. Not long afterwards he wandered off and later we were notified of his tragic death. We created another beautiful memorial, accompanied by prayers and stories. In this mystery of life, little do we know what is ahead.”

Joy adds, “This is a regular and much needed ritual that helps us experience our grief. We also support our gents without families or those families without funds to support funerals. Also, as a wider Catholic community, we participate in the annual Interment of Ashes at the Charles O’Neill Walkway, Catholic Cemeteries, Rookwood.”

Up in Tweed Heads the service named after Blessed Frederic Ozanam receives up to 80 visitors each day, providing light meals, bathroom and laundry facilities, medical care, computer access, housing information and more. The area has one of the highest rates of homelessness and rough sleeping in NSW.

Many service users have serious health issues, as well as substance abuse problems and mental health concerns. A number of Fred’s Place clients have passed away over the five years the service has operated, and while the transient nature of their lives makes many of them anonymous to the staff, some are well known to fellow clients and the news gets back.

Responding to a request from the mates of one deceased client the service established an In Memorium wall where hand-made plaques could be erected to mark those who have passed. It has now become a sacred space bearing the names of the former street people who so valued the help and companionship that Fred's Place offers.

In Memory wall at Fred's Place

Giving a donation in memory of a loved one is a way to honour and celebrate their life, while helping to raise vital funds for those who experience poverty and homelessness in the community.