Six nights a week, there are hundred's of volunteers delivering warm, nutritious meals, fruit, drinks, blankets and beanies at ten sites across South Australia.
Fred's Van provides comfort and a warm, nutritious meal for those experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness and marginalisation. Operating from eight sites across Adelaide and two regional sites in Port Lincoln and Port Pirie, this emergency service is delivered by the work and commitment of more than 600 volunteers.
A couple of months ago, I was able to observe what happens on a Tuesday night run of Fred's Van into the city.
I was unprepared for the line up of people - already waiting in the cold night for the van to arrive. Apparently is was a quiet night - there were only sixty or so people who stuck together while we set up tables and organised how the service would happen. Each and everyone of the men and women who were served food and drinks that night was treated with compassion and understanding - without judgement.
It was heartwarming, to say the least, to see that there are those who break with their own life pressures and set out rain, hail or shine to ease the burden of others, and with such grace.
The History of Fred's Van:
The history of Fred's Van dates back to the late 1980's when Vinnies Youth volunteers, coordinated by Catherine O'Connell and Peter Barry, saw a need to help the hungry and homeless people in the City of Adelaide. Food was distributed at various squats around the city and through the parklands.
As the need grew and more people heard about the good work, food was initially distributed from an old station wagon stocked with food. One night, the station wagon broke down in King William Street and had to be pushed off the road. A group of people from Lions International visiting Adelaide witnessed this and crossed the road to see why a group of people were clustered around this old vehicle. They were so impressed with the work that they decided to support the funding of the van.
Fred's Van, with permission from the Adelaide City Council, then began operating out of an old shed in Symonds Place, using a portable BBQ in a laneway, to serve our street friends. This was one of many sites Fred's Van operated from. It is now located on the corner of Gawler Place and Wakefield Street, Adelaide.
So..who can access the services Fred's Van?
Anyone, is the short answer.
Fred's Van supports some of the most vulnerable people in our community who experience a range of issues such as homelessness, social isolation and unemployment or underemployment.
Some of those people include -
'David is a disabled father of five. He comes to Fred's Van with his children whenever he is out of work, which is often. When he doesn't turn up for a while he tells us he had a job for a while. David knows Fred's Van is there to fall back on for himself and his kids whenever times are tough.'
'Sean had only been out of prison a week when he came to Fred's Van. He thanked us profusely, he was extremely grateful to receive a hot meal and a friendly chat with people who care.'
'Sarah is really struggling to make ends meet. She recently separated from an abusive husband. Sarah and her two little girls didn't have anywhere to go. Sarah was so grateful to Fred's Van for providing here and her girls with a hot meal and some cans of soup to take away with her. Sarah was also given some contact numbers by our volunteers so she could get some help with accommodation.'
How to help:
There are many ways to directly assist Fred's Van :
Donate to Pup and Girl run to Melbourne here.
Donate to directly to Fred's Van here.
Organise a workplace fundraiser like a causal day/cupcake day/morning tea.
Volunteer your time - try this link.
Donate non-perishable foods and blankets.
And spread the word, let people know that there are people out there on the frontline providing invaluable emergency relief.