Started in 2016, the One Roof Project runs two nights a week to provide free meals to vulnerable community members on the Sunshine Coast. It is run by Maroochy Neighbourhood Centre’s dedicated team of staff and volunteers who have helped it steadily evolve over the years into far more than a meal service. Michael Henning, Maroochy Neighbourhood Centre CEO, speaks to that evolution and how the idea came about.

“[In 2016] there was nowhere on the length of the coast where you could find free meals, so some of our volunteers suggested we do meals for the homeless. We organised a programme where we served just one night a week. From there it evolved to two nights and has become a wraparound service, incorporating a range of organisations like Orange Sky Laundry, Sunny Street Medical Services, financial counselling and people who come on board to do referral services for employment and assessments.”

The need for the One Roof Project has continued to grow, as the pandemic drives up house prices on the Sunshine Coast, with interstate buyers flooding the market, purchasing and renting homes sight-unseen (ABC News).

“It has gotten to the point where low-income earners just can’t afford rent. We have got quite a significant number of people that are homeless. We already had a large homeless rate, and the rental market has just exacerbated the problem even further. We have a number of families sleeping in cars and people who are underemployed or have low paying jobs who can’t afford the high rents and are also sleeping in cars.”

Michael Henning (Maroochy Neighbourhood Centre)

Incredibly, the One Roof Project is completely unfunded by the government. Henning, and his team have managed to cope with the growth through much needed support from the Sunshine Coast community who see the value in their work.

“The government says that we’re doing an absolutely wonderful job, but at the end of the day we fund it ourselves. The community have come on board and are paying for the work that we do. For example, Unity Water have come on board with a three-year grant, we had a very large philanthropic organisation donate, and a number of single donors who perpetually donate money to us on a regular basis. We have even had a lot of elderly people on pensions donate the $750.00 in COVID-19 payments they received from the government, because they felt it was their way of contributing to looking after their community.”

Michael Henning (Maroochy Neighbourhood Centre)

Community support and a devoted team is what allowed the program to continue throughout COVID-19 lockdowns, a much-needed lifeline when many other organisations initially closed their doors.

“I had a meeting with all the crew, and I said, “do we stay open, or do we close?”. The consensus from everyone unanimously was, let’s stay open, if we close, where do all the homeless people go?”

Michael Henning (Maroochy Neighbourhood Centre)

Since the success of the One Roof Project, Michael Henning and his team have gone on to develop more services to support their vulnerable community members. Maroochy Neighbourhood Centre is tirelessly looking out for the needs of the community and responding however they can.

 

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Published: 6 May, 2022