Dorothy and Di

Dorothy Sparkes (left) and Di Bowerman in the neighbourhood house garden at Kingston.


By Paul O'Rourke


Loaves and Fishes Tasmania is giving food and hope to up to 150 people each week through a special partnership with Kingston Neighbourhood House.

Loaves and Fishes is one of many partners working collaboratively with the neighbourhood house to help residents doing it tough because of poverty, isolation, sickness, family breakdown, mental health issues and addiction.

Kingston looks after its own.

David Morse

Neighbourhood House manager David Morse (pictured) explains that looks can be deceiving.

Tucked away in the back blocks without an ocean view or a sea breeze, are pockets of disadvantage, older Housing Department flats and modest homes sometimes scattered amongst neat middle class properties.

“It’s a 35-minute walk to the closest shopping centre and up to an hour from essential services,” he said.

“That’s not far on the bus, but what if you are sick or elderly, or suffer from anxiety, issues, or there are people on the bus you don’t like or are scared of?”

David, who has been manager for four years, said the rising cost of living, including mortgage, rent and utility bills was taking its toll on Kingston.

“We are seeing increasing levels of social anxiety, family violence and stress, particularly among those with a mortgage,” he said.

Dramatic increase in need

“We are seeing a dramatic increase since COVID in the number of working poor.

“We have also seen an increase in the number of men wanting to come in and have a chat because they are experiencing mental health issues, relationship problems, money stress, addiction issues, and PTSD.”

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The Neighbourhood House and adjoining childcare centre is a community hub, a safe place where you can get food, find a listening ear, do a jigsaw puzzle, have your clothes altered, get help accessing a Government service, share a meal or a problem.

Dozens of families trickle in between 1pm and 4pm every Monday to collect a Loaves and Fishes food pack of fresh produce and ready-to-eat meals. Other agencies supply hygiene products, tinned food and baked goods.

Loaves and Fishes delivers 500kg of food each week; a mix of fresh produce and a range of ready-to-eat meals.

Hampers are made-to-order based on specific needs and family size.

The neighbourhood house delivers to those who can’t get to the centre, while some visitors collect several orders on behalf of neighbours and friends.

Two of those who regularly receive food are Dorothy Sparkes and Di Bowerman.

Dorothy, who is in her seventies, has multiple serious health issues.

Over a cup of tea and scones laid out in a small kitchen area, Dorothy explains that food assistance frees up what’s left of her pension to pay bills.

“Power is the killer,” she said.

“I’m lucky because I rent my house from my son and daughter-in-law who help look after me.”

Dorothy volunteered at the neighbourhood house for many years before health issues made it too difficult, but she’s a regular visitor.

Di Bowerman, who has volunteered at the neighbourhood house for more than a decade, says she struggles with anxiety, making it difficult to venture far from home.

“The food is tasty and definitely helps when certain bills come in,” she said.

“I couldn’t cope with going to the supermarket to shop.

“They encourage us to eat healthier but fruit and vegetables are expensive.”

Di said the ready-to-eat meals were perfect for those who didn't have the time or the ability to make dishes from raw ingredients.

Both women would love to have pets but can’t afford them.

Di says the need has increased significantly, particularly in the past few years.

“Sometimes it takes a while for people to come and get help,” she said.

“They may feel embarrassed or ashamed, or feel like there are others who are in more need.

“Everyone’s welcome here. There’s no judgement.”

Dorothy Sparkes

Dorothy Sparkes at home with a cuppa and scones at the neighbourhood house.