June 15, 1987

Article at The Sydney Morning Herald

NEWS | $10m charity grew from soup kitchen


Benjamin Short, founder of the Sydney City Mission, dreamed 125 years ago of a world where the spectre of hungry children begging for food would be wiped out.

His dream has yet to come true, but his creation has lived on to care for the homeless and destitute.

Yesterday volunteers, staff and beneficiaries of the mission turned out to celebrate its 125th birthday, at the Garrison Holy Trinity Anglican Church at Millers Point. 

It was in 1862 at the same church and at the same time as yesterday’s service that the mission was established, to be the first non-sectarian welfare agency in Australia.

The Rev Kenneth Short, a descendant of the founder, conducted yesterday’s service.

The mission has diversified from its soup-kitchen days to employ 320 staff and 500 volunteers at 35 centres, and commands a budget of more than $10 million annually.

Approximately half of its funding comes from State and Federal grants. The rest is made up from donations by companies, Church groups, service clubs and private sources.

Even such a formidable organisation is strapped for cash, however, because so many need care.

“We’re still very desperate for money,” said Mr Greg Turner, a mission spokesman. “In the last few years, the number of times we’ve exceeded our maximum occupancy space has trebled.

“We even use the chapel for accommodation when we run out of room. Our motto is to never turn people away from our doors,” he said.

Three of the organisation’s Missionbeat vans operate in the city 24 hours a day, and two others operate in Granville and Manly, mostly at night.

“They do a great job,” said Mr Dennis Jones, a welfare officer at the mission’s Swanton Lodge. “People here are really dedicated. Sometimes you feel like you want to up and resign, but you’re always back here the next day.”


Mr Kalawa Kalesimede, driver, started his shift at 7.15 yesterday morning. By the time he finished at 3 pm he taken six of Sydney’s homeless to shelter, had 10 people he approached refuse assistance, made a donation pick-up, and responded to three public calls for assistance.

This is how the 45,500th day of the Sydney City Mission went for one of its Missionbeat mobile assistance vans:

  • 7.20 am: Surry Hills. Two males refuse assistance.
  • 7.55 am: Eddy Avenue, City. Homeless man picked up. Dropped off at Day Centre.
  • 9.15 am: Swanton Lodge, City. Pick up woman to be conveyed to Samaritan House.
  • 10.05 am: Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Detoxification Unit. Pick up intoxicated male. Drop off at youth refuge.
  • 11.10 am: Darlinghurst. Male refuses assistance.
  • 11.40 am: Kings Cross. Three males refuse assistance.
  • 12.05 pm: St Vincent’s Hospital. Pick up two homeless males. Drop off at refuge.
  • 12.25 pm: Paddington. Respond to call, but no-one found at site.
  • 12.35 pm: Surry Hills. While patrolling, found intoxicated man. Dropped off at detoxification unit.
  • 1.00 pm: Rose Bay. Pick up a donation.
  • 2.05 pm: Liverpool Street, City. Respond to call, no-one found.
  • 2.20 pm: Paddington. Respond to call, no-one found.
  • 2.35 pm: Surry Hills. On patrol, four males found. Refused assistance.
  • 3.05 pm: End of shift.