Volunteering in the Night Van
"There is nothing new to what I am up to. I am still doing my work with the night van. Karen and I have an evening of cooking steaks and snags and making tea and coffee coffee as part of our commitment to the van which has extended over several years now." says Dr Charles Harmon.
Charles Harmon is a lecturer who specialises in Mental Health Nursing within the School of Nursing and Midwifery at The University of Newcastle. He is referring to his regular Saturday night commitment as a volunteer who assists in staffing the CatholicCare Night Care Van in Newcastle.
CatholicCare operates a custom built catering trailer in Islington, every Saturday between 4pm and 7pm, with the purpose of providing food and beverages to people who are homeless, suffering from a mental illness or who are otherwise disadvantaged. The Night Care Van is supported and staffed by 16 teams of volunteers and is visited by approximately 100 people each Saturday.
"Our commitment was reduced during 2011 by the fact that we had an influx of volunteers which means that we appeared a bit less on the roster, but, this will probably change as winter approaches and volunteers go to ground." Charles said.
The suburb of Islington was identified as an area that would benefit from the Night Care Van following a 'binge drinking strategy meeting' attended by NSW Police, Newcastle City Council and other service representatives due to its high levels of alcohol and drug consumption. Charles is always positive.
"We still have our 'regular' clietele of homeless people, people with a mental illness, local prostitutes, people with drug and alcohol problems and the latest wave of migrants and refugees. The deal is that we give our customers a meal and have a chat with them and do a little bit of pastoral work. Some problems are easy to fix; most are not. But food and a chat can sometimes go part of the way to instilling hope." he said.
Charles Harmon is also an active member of the Hunter Regional Branch of the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses.