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Chilly nights, a warm welcome and hot soup

THE streets around Hobart are quiet at this time of year, with families, flatmates and friends staying safe at home with lights and heating high and with a hot drink to guard against the cold winter outside.

Elsewhere, a dedicated group of caring volunteers have been preparing to spend the night away from their loved ones to serve the less fortunate who don’t have a place to call home.

On most nights, more than 50 people wait in the cold and dark for Loui’s Van to arrive to distribute winter clothes, a warm welcome and a hot meal.

St. Vincent de Paul Society’s southern regional president Pat Flanagan said he had seen an unrelenting demand for Loui’s Van.

“We started with one Loui’s Van more than 25 years ago, which has grown to three vans today, covering Hobart, Kingston, and Huonville,” he said.

“Sadly, for the past few months, they have all been garaged, with COVID-19 having affected the Society’s ability to deliver warm clothes and hot food.

“While we were able to continue emergency relief over the last few months, it is great to be back on the road in time for the coldest part of winter.

“Those who rely on Loui’s Van range from children to aged people and reflect a broad cross section of our community.”

Mr Flanagan said Loui’s Van assisted more than 17,000 people across the state last year.

“Many people are experiencing considerable difficulty, including homelessness, mental health issues, isolation, drug and alcohol issues, and poor self-esteem, which has been exacerbated by COVID-19,” he said.

“For many, Loui’s Van is a reminder of the dignity, concerns, and the value of all people, which goes to the heart of the Society’s reason for existing.

“The Society has a wonderful brigade of volunteers who are involved in all aspects of the Loui’s Van’s operation – from making soup, preparing sandwiches, and delivering the services around Hobart.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to offer hope and help to the less fortunate.”

Almost anyone can volunteer at Loui’s Van.

“Volunteers do not require any particular experience, but it is important to be non-judgemental and to have an open heart to accept others,” Mr Flanagan said.

“A sense of humour helps at times, but most important of all, a commitment to building a just and compassionate community.

“The majority of Vinnies volunteers find Loui’s Van a rewarding and enjoyable experience.”

There are three Loui’s Vans delivering hope to the homeless and those at risk of homelessness in and around Hobart.

For $25, anyone can ‘adopt’ Loui for an evening and help the homeless without leaving home.

A $25 donation feeds the 50 people who visit Loui’s Van on any given night.

Donors can even choose the date, which could be to recognise a birthday or a donation in memory of a loved one.

To make a $25 donation or for more information about volunteering with Loui’s Van and the St. Vincent de Paul Society, contact the Emergency Relief coordinator at louisvan@stvinnies.org.au or phone 6234 4244.

Caption: From left, Kane Ingham from Aurora and Vinnies long-term volunteer Robert Kreshl.

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About the Author: Hobart Observer

The Hobart Observer is your monthly community newspaper, reaching over 24,000 homes and businesses in and around the City of Hobart. It is the product of Nicolas Turner, Justine Brazil, Ben Hope, Simon Andrews, Tobias Hinds and guest contributors, with support from advertisers.

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