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Weekdays are the new ‘Sunday’ at Waterloo

Inner-City Chaplain Major Bill Geracia with a volunteer at Sydney City Salvos Waterloo.

On the southern side of Sydney city is a place in Waterloo known simply as ‘the towers’ – the biggest social housing estate in Australia, consisting of several tower apartment blocks, terraces and single-story homes. It’s home to more than 2000 people.

On the edge of the precinct is The Salvation Army’s City Salvos Waterloo mission. It’s a place where everyone is welcome, people can stay for as long or as little as they like, and there’s usually coffee and chats to be had!

The mission forms part of Sydney City Salvos’ footprint across the city and is overseen by Sydney City Salvos Team Leader Mitchell Evans. He says whilst Waterloo has had different service offerings over the years, it has always been a safe space for local residents.

“Our chaplains who come alongside people at Sydney City Salvos Waterloo have demonstrated a ministry of consistency.

Sydney City Salvos Team Leader Mitchell Evans.

“They just keep on turning up. I think of our weekly barbeque, some weeks we would cook the snags, and no one would turn up, but the consistency of being there and doing that and being open to connecting with people is the key. People know that at certain times and on certain days, we will be there, and that creates a sense of safety.”

Inner-city chaplain, Captain Bronwyn Moon, works across each of the inner-city services, from homelessness accommodation to Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) services. On Mondays, she is faithfully available to run Faith Space at City Salvos Waterloo. “I can have one person, or I can have six,” she says of the small group that meets in the City Salvos Waterloo community café.

Faith Space started before Bronwyn’s appointment out of a need to provide faith pathways outside of Sundays. “We were being told by several older people in Waterloo that because of increased violence and drug use on weekends, they would lock themselves in their unit on a Friday afternoon and not come out until Monday morning when there were more people and services around,” says Mitch.

The Monday group has explored Christianity Explained and is currently going through a book called God Has You in His Hands.”

It’s a real community type of feel,” says Bronwyn. “They come in because it’s a place where they feel safe, it’s somewhere for them to go, they see other people, and we have a laugh and a good time. Connections don’t happen overnight; they happen by consistency; they happen through the love of God. We might be the only Bible they read.”

Inner-City Chaplain Bill Geracia chats with a Waterloo community member.

On Tuesday, City Salvos Waterloo hosts a different inner-city chaplain, Major Irene Pleffer. She assists in the café and takes time to have intentional conversations with community members who drop in.

“I love having deep conversations,” she says. “I have been able to link two of those people to Hope Dinner, and one came to Congress Hall for meetings.”

Loneliness and isolation are significant issues for many who live in Waterloo, so the chaplains aim to build community, not only on-site at our City Salvos Waterloo site but connect community members to other Sydney City Salvos expressions such as the weekly Hope Dinner at Sydney Congress Hall, and Sunday Services. Through these additional connections, community members are meeting friends and engaging more fully in healthy community.

One of the most popular days at City Salvos Waterloo is Wednesday – barbeque day! A third inner-city chaplain, Major Bill Geracia, joins the team and throws some snags on and has a chat with many of the men who hang around to help.

“We had one community member who we knew from a different inner-city service,” he says. “He said, ‘I have nothing to do on Wednesdays,’ and I said, ‘I’m at City Salvos Waterloo and do a barbeque,’ and he’s like: ‘I just moved around the corner from there!’ So, he was coming over for six weeks helping out with the barbeque because he has a very servant heart.

“He was straight out of William Booth [a Salvation Army alcohol and other drugs service] and into a transitional house, and he was volunteering for six weeks on the barbeque with me, and now he has a job.”

All through a ministry of consistency, of building connections across multiple locations, and creating safe places and spaces for people to be part of. Please keep all our Sydney City Salvos locations and personnel in your prayers.

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