Christmas has come early for a Goolwa charity that was facing losing the large house which provides crisis accommodation for the town’s most vulnerable people, after a good Samaritan stepped in and bought the property.

Key points:

  • Goolwa charity’s was set to lose its crisis accommodation after the house was put up for sale
  • A local woman has come forward to save it by purchasing the home
  • Businesses and groups have pitched in as demand for food and help escalates on the south coast

The Whalers Peninsula Community Association (WPCA) had rented the house an hour south of Adelaide for the past 12 years, housing up to 12 residents at a time who would otherwise be homeless.

The property was placed on the market about two years ago with a value of about $1.5 million.

The small charity, which relied on its op-shop income and donations, had absolutely no way to buy the house itself.

Volunteer manager of the association, Mary McInnes, said the charity had been worried it would lose the facility when a new owner was found.

But then the unexpected happened.

A local woman said she would use her inheritance money to fund a trust that would purchase the property on the proviso the charity managed the house for the next 20 years.

WPCA said it was unable to give the good Samaritan’s name as she was travelling and not easily reachable.

Lesley Picotti and Mary McInnes provide food, advice and smiling kindness in Goolwa.(ABC South East SA: Caroline Horn)

“She just wanted to help the community,” Mrs McInnes said.

“She got it at a good price and we’re happy to manage it and the tenants are relieved they can stay there.”

Muffin and her mum can stay together

The house is one of the few options available for crisis accommodation on South Australia’s South Coast and is constantly full.

One of the residents at the home who lives there with her dog Muffin said she had been homeless for a year, staying in sheds and moving frequently before recently moving in.

The Goolwa local, who asked not to be named, said while having Muffin made it more difficult to find places to stay, there was “no way” she was going to get rid of her dog.

Ms McInnes said there were plans to try to extend the amount of crisis accommodation in the new year, with demand far exceeding what was available in the small town of about 7,500 people.

“There’s just nothing around at all and as soon as we get a tent or something donated [to the op shop] we hang on to it because we know that people will eventually want it to put in a friend’s backyard or something,” she said.

“We’ve got a couple of people now who are living in friends’ backyards.

“There’s also a lot of people living in sheds as well.

“Ten dollars a night apparently the going rate is.”

Busy Christmas

Ms McInnes said the current Christmas period was the busiest the charity had experienced in the 28 years she had been working there.

But she said the Goolwa community had gone above and beyond in responding to its requests for donations.

Her office was jammed with donated food and presents as a steady stream of people in need came and went.

A Goolwa woman made bags for the donations of food and goods.(ABC South East SA: Caroline Horn)

“People from the local Rotary Club went shopping and donated $1,000 worth of toys recently,” Mrs McInnes said. 

“We think they had a great time doing it.”

She said the charity had responded to 240 requests for help during December and would distribute more than 64 food hampers, along with pet food supplies and presents for children whose parents were struggling.

The list of local businesses lending a hand to fill the food hampers included bakeries in Goolwa and neighbouring towns, hotels, the local Cittaslow chapter, residents and operators of the town’s retirement villages and other businesses.

Community steps up 

Victor Harbor Salvation Army officer Nathan Hodges also said it was one of the busiest Christmas periods on record for South Coast charities.

Hindmarsh Valley Country Fire Service members help sort donations.(Supplied: Nathan Hodges)

Captain Hodges said there had been a significant increase in the number of people asking for help over the past year.

He said his charity was seeing people who had never needed to ask for help come in because of the increase in the cost of living.

“It’s starting to get into that more middle class level,” he said.

“Married couples who have decent salaries, decent incomes but they’re just struggling.

“We’ve seen a lot more need; a lot of names that we haven’t seen before.”

Captain Hodges said final tallies were still to be made but he estimated that so far this month the Victor Harbor Salvation Army had provided $30,000 in assistance to local residents, including food hampers to 140 families and toys to 160 children.

Local service clubs, businesses and community members have donated toys.(Supplied: Nathan Hodges)

He said the vast majority of the funding for that assistance had come from donations from the community.

Captain Hodges said people came to his organisation for a lot of different reasons, including the risk of homelessness.

He said the Salvation Army arranged referrals, distributed tents and sleeping bags and had also paid for some people to stay temporarily in caravan parks.

“It’s whatever you can find for them but it is rather difficult,” he said.

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