Arrupe Place welcomes asylum seekers

Arrupe Place, 4 Victoria Road, Parramatta.

Arrupe Place, 4 Victoria Road, Parramatta.

“Many of these families are living in Western Sydney and have complex needs and limited funds to travel to access support services. The opening of a drop-in space in Parramatta is in keeping with JRS’ aim to give priority to those who are most vulnerable, most in need of support, and those who fall through the cracks.”

JRS’ new drop-in centre in Parramatta is already buzzing with activity just a month after opening its doors to Western Sydney’s refugee community, with 80 asylum seekers attending a recent information session held in conjunction with the Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS).

Arrupe Place was established early this year following a fundraising drive which was met with great enthusiasm by JRS’ supporters. Partnering with agencies such as RACS, the centre aims to fill the glaring need in a region that is home to NSW’s largest concentration of refugees and asylum seekers, yet which lacks a relevant suite of services for this group of people.

Onsite caseworkers at Arrupe Place are providing asylum seekers with a variety of services including employment support and access to legal referrals. A large number of volunteers have signed up to fulfil a range of functions such as delivering English classes, running men’s and women’s groups, a children’s playgroup and a food bank, and being on hand as a friendly point of welcome when people drop in to the centre for a cup of tea and a chat.

For the first time at JRS Australia, volunteers are also being trained to undertake home visits – a service that aims to put into practice the organisation’s mission of accompaniment by dispatching volunteers to visits asylum seekers in their homes and to respond as best they can to specific needs.

“In the last year, the Shelter Project caseworkers, along with other asylum seeker support agencies, have noted a significant increase in the number of families presenting as financially destitute and at risk of homelessness,” says Maeve Brown, JRS’ Shelter Project Coordinator.

“Many of these families are living in Western Sydney and have complex needs and limited funds to travel to access support services. The opening of a drop-in space in Parramatta is in keeping with JRS’ aim to give priority to those who are most vulnerable, most in need of support, and those who fall through the cracks.”

The local community has already expressed support for the program, with Our Lady of Mercy College raising money for the centre through its Mercy Tree Appeal late last year. More recently, the school offered to lend Arrupe Place equipment for a football-and-BBQ day held for asylum seekers at a Parramatta park.

“There’s a real need in the community for a welcoming space such as this because too often asylum seekers are not welcome,” says Oliver White, Head of Policy and Advocacy at JRS.

“Asylum seekers living in Western Sydney have come from many different countries and cultures and often their journey to Australia has been harrowing. It must be hard for them when they’re not received well, and so Arrupe Place hopes to provide that place of welcome and comfort for them.”

Arrupe Place is located at Coolock Cottage, 4 Victoria Road, Parramatta. It is financed entirely by donations and relies on the assistance of a dedicated group of volunteers. To donate please click here

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