Saturday Mornings at Whitmore Square

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An emerging community is forming in the heart of Whitmore Square, bringing hope and hot food to all who frequent it.

Wheeling out a BBQ on Saturday mornings to the centre of the square, members of WestCare Baptist cook up a spread of bacon, eggs, and sausages, and serve fresh tea and coffee at no cost. Music plays and conversation buzzes as community members pull up a chair and hang out while they eat.

“They’re like a big family to me, they care,” says Greg Channing, a member of the community.

“It makes me want to be a part of them. I can fit in here. These mob, they go out of their way. What they do at the [WestCare] Centre, they work their butts off, and they’re so happy!”

“They’re not there to preach, they’re just themselves. They’re amazing, there should be more like them.”

Whitmore Square is well-known in Adelaide as a hub for services supporting disadvantaged and homeless people.

Such services can become clinical in their attempts to support huge numbers of struggling people in an overwhelmed system. Authentic community can be hard to find in the network, an issue compounded by the lack of services available on Saturday mornings across the wider metropolitan area.

A group of four housemates living in the city saw this need and chose to act, and its ongoing impact on the wider community is remarkable.

“We started this in October 2022,” says David McDonough, one of four young adults who kickstarted this organic community.

“It started with me and my housemates [Elton Botelho, Luke McDonough, and Jesse Beckinsale], we live just around the corner from here. On that day we decided to wheel the BBQ out and do a barbie with some bacon and eggs and see who would come. Now it’s grown to maybe over 100 people every Saturday.

“There’s definitely a need. On Saturdays, there’s the least number of services for the homeless or people in need to get food.

“Where we live is part of the Baptist Care SA program Urban Learning Community, living and volunteering with the homeless and those in need. So, we wanted a way to create better relationships and a good environment for people.”

And the response has been incredible. From Indigenous artists to octogenarian English teachers, horticulturalists to lawyers; the space is shared by many. For David, seeing relationships grow is the key.

“There’s lots of food, lots of services out there. But a lot of them can be a bit clinical, a bit transactional.

“What gets me back is the actual relationship side of it. People opening up, sharing more [of their story], friendship. From it we’ve seen people come to church, and not because we’ve evangelised to them.”

Growing up at WestCare Baptist opened David’s eyes to the opportunities at hand. For housemate Elton, after working with a COVID-19 response team in India, it was volunteering as an international student that exposed him to the present need.

“When I came to Adelaide, I had some spare time, so I thought I should volunteer. I walked into Baptist Care SA, and I was shocked. I didn’t know Australia had homelessness. As international students we see all the wishy-washy clean stuff, we don’t see the reality. It was then that I knew this is the place I should belong.

“Seeing people’s lives change. having good conversations, that’s what this place is about.”

Greg – who’s been around the WestCare Centre for four months – has seen this change.

“I was on my way to Brisbane from Perth. My plane was leaving the next morning, so I slept in this park, and someone stole my bag. All my belongings, everything was gone, and I was stuck here.

“Some old guy said to me ‘go over to that church over there, they’ll help ya’. So, I walked into that door and haven’t left. They opened their arms, heard my story, and took me on board. It’s the first time I’ve ran into a place where people actually, full-on care. You know the feeling straight away.”

Greg, a horticulturalist by trade, has transformed the local garden outside the WestCare Baptist church building. Curiously, the garden has also proven a place of safe refuge.

“I can’t stay away. I camp there every now and then, and when’s there’s bad issues [going on nearby], I get to the gate and it’s like there’s a forcefield there automatically stopping me from leaving. It’s weird!

“He [God] keeps me safe. The things [people say] are true because they’ve happened, I’ve experienced it! I’ve felt it.

“I shake my head. Twice I’ve had bad occasions of things getting stolen, and you just lose it. But ‘BANG!’ – just stopped me at the perimeter and sent me back. And I just sit down like, ‘what’s just happened?’ I feel almost embarrassed saying something about it. But it’s kept me out of trouble, and I just go back to the garden and keep working on the garden.”

Come be a part of this emerging community! Serving food and community every Saturday from 9am at Whitmore Square, Adelaide.

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