Gemstone: Providing a safe and comfortable place for women in need

Each Wednesday, women gather to attend the ‘Gemstone’ breakfast, held by Anglicare Victoria’s Homeless Services team.

Some women who attend feel isolated and need social interaction. Others need a healthy meal and others are homeless and need extra support to help them through a tough time. Being able to get together to have a chat with other women who may be going through a similar experience can make a big difference to a person’s wellbeing.

Matt Conway is a Homeless Support Worker at Anglicare Victoria and along with a team of dedicated volunteers, has been running Gemstone since it began one month ago.

The team also run a daily general breakfast in Melbourne’s CBD, however, saw a need for a specialised breakfast for women, especially for women who live in social or public housing who may feel isolated. The women who attend feel safe and comfortable at Gemstone and are able to build positive social networks.

“It’s essentially an opportunity for women to come and have breakfast and talk to each other and take part in regular activities. We have a broad range of services who come in to help, including Centrelink, a district nurse, a doctor from cohealth and family violence workers to help.”

“We also have an educational (literacy and numeracy) approach as well which may include helping people fill in forms, or with basic budgeting,” says Matt.

Trish attends the breakfast regularly and helps spread the word to others about the breakfast. She has also started volunteering with the team, which provides her with a great sense of purpose, especially since overcoming her own adversity.

“I think this breakfast program’s good… there’s a lot of people that go without. I think the more women hear about it, they’ll come to have a healthy breakfast, as it’s the most important part of the day. And all the workers are good here, you can talk to all of them. It’s a good place.”

The team try and make the breakfast a little different to what they offer at other locations. Croissants, toast, eggs, bacon, fruit salad and muesli are all on the menu and the room is set up like a café, where women are served their breakfast rather than a buffet style setting. It’s a little touch which makes it that extra bit special for the women who attend.

At the end of the day, Trish is thankful for the team’s support.

“They’ve helped me through heaps, even when I was unwell. And never turned their backs on me.”

To find out more about Gemstone or volunteering opportunities phone the team on 9419 3288.

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