PEOPLE start arriving just before six o’clock — some in cars, some walk, others on bikes or even skateboards.
For a while one man rolled down the street in a wheelchair to the doors of Warrnambool’s soup kitchen.
It would be easy to think of soup kitchens belonging only to the sprawling cities where homelessness is a part of the hustle and bustle landscape — but the reality is people in Warrnambool go hungry.
On a Monday night, anywhere between 15 to 40 people can file into the St Joseph’s Parish Hall for a three-course meal.
Everyone from families to the elderly use the free service.
Lately soup kitchen co-ordinator Cath Lourey has been troubled by fewer people taking a seat at the table.
“The numbers are down, but we know they’re out there,” Mrs Lourey told The Standard.
“People who are in need, need to come forward. We make everyone who comes in feel welcome.”
Seven years ago a group of volunteers from the city’s churches decided to form the soup kitchen after hosting a Christmas lunch.
They took over another soup kitchen and work tirelessly through the week preparing for Monday’s meal.
“People say there might be people who come for a meal who don’t need it, but that’s not our role. If there’s anyone who comes in on a cold night, they need it.”
Questions don’t get asked of anyone coming in and more often it’s when people stop visiting that raises question marks.
A handful of businesses make monthly donations — often providing special bonuses like desserts on top of the normal meals.
But it’s money the kitchen needs to keep running.
Mrs Lourey, who also acts as the kitchen’s treasurer, is constantly on the hunt for more donations.
As for manpower, it’s the one thing Warrnambool will always give up.
“We’ve got plenty of volunteers, Warrnambool is a very good place,” Mrs Lourey said. “It’s rewarding, you feel like you are helping people in need.
“The importance of the soup kitchen can’t be underestimated.”