Grandmother Robyn right at home with friends on streets
Tireless campaigner: Robyn Hunt is a Rosies stalwart and parishioner at Stella Maris Church, Broadbeach. Photo: Mark Bowling
WHAT draws a person to Rosies – Friends on the Street?
It was watching this incredible charity grow from a group of young people assisting Schoolies to a statewide organisation providing connection and community to the vulnerable that inspired Surfers Paradise parishioner Robyn Hunt to join Rosies in 2004.
“Each year one of the Oblate priests would hold commissioning ceremonies for the Rosies volunteers at Sacred Heart Church and they would ask for volunteers – I was interested in joining but I had four children at school and I couldn’t make the commitment just yet,” the 73-year-old grandmother said.
“When the priest asked me again in 2004, I was ready to commit myself to the service of others.”
When Ms Hunt speaks of commitment, she really means it. Rather than trying to “fit Rosies into her schedule”, she works around her fortnightly volunteer roster.
“I put Rosies in my diary and that way if someone invites me to do something I say no, sorry I have got something else on – it’s important to show up for your team and for our patrons who rely on our service.”
“I carried the torch for the 1200 volunteers who work for Rosies,” Ms Hunt told The Catholic Leader at that time.
Rosies has a long history on the Gold Coast, albeit not always an easy one. The grassroots organisation has had to shift outreach location many times as Surfers Paradise has grown and changed over the years.
“We started right on the beach front near the Surfers Paradise sign offering just a biscuit and a cuppa, then they started doing up the esplanade and we got moved on a bit further to a Laws and Hamilton Park and then finally when the Comm Games came around, we needed to move again,” she said.
“I approached Fr Peter at St Vincent’s and so we returned to the place where the branch started.”
While the change in location meant Rosies was less visible to the general public, it provided a haven for patrons who wanted to avoid the drugs and alcohol that the beachfront tended to attract.
Of the location, Ms Hunt said: “It is a different atmosphere, and our patrons love it; they seem to be more respectful because we are on the church grounds.”
Regardless of the location and the number of times the outreach has had to move, Ms Hunt continues to volunteer year after year.
This month, she celebrates her 18th anniversary. Meanwhile, her connection to gospel and the mission of Rosies grows ever stronger.
“While I may not have always understood why, from a very early age I was driven by the words of the Gospel of Matthew 25:34-40. When Jesus said, ‘I was hungry and you fed me, lonely and you comforted me, in prison and you visited me’ and I ask, ‘When did I see you hungry, lonely, in prison?’ He will say to me ‘Whatever you did for someone in need – you did to me’.
For Ms Hunt these words embrace her work with Rosies.
“Volunteering allows me to pass on the good news of Jesus to others by simply being with them and showing them I care for them, just as He does – I don’t need to talk about my faith – people will know who I am by what I do not what I say,” she said.
Ms Hunt puts her faith and mission into action each fortnight when she attends outreach at St Vincent’s Church car park in Surfers Paradise.
“Volunteering is important to me because I need to be there for people – need to be a presence for them – need them as much as they need me – because I am sure at times that I get more out of volunteering than what I give,” she said.
“I love being with our patrons – it’s important for them to see a familiar face for them to have a sense of knowing you, knowing they are at home with you, knowing that you come out because you care about them, and also knowing that you are a friend that they can rely on to be there for them in times when they really need you – be it for whatever, a quick hug, a smile, a chat, a blanket or toiletries.”
Sometimes it can be hard for volunteers like Ms Hunt to leave what they’ve heard on outreach, often keeping the patrons’ stories close to their heart.
“When I go home after an outreach I keep running over the night’s conversations in my head – worrying about how this one is coping given their particular circumstances on that night or how that one is navigating their particular issue,” she said.
“I was raised to be compassionate and have always been concerned for those in need, those who are lonely, vulnerable and at risk or subject to discrimination – I was always told to be on the lookout for anyone in need.”
Even though Ms Hunt may sometimes lose sleep over the wellbeing of Rosies patrons, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Volunteering with Rosies has allowed her to put her faith into action and share hope with people in vulnerable situations, something that during the holidays can be seriously lacking.
Christmas is a difficult and challenging time for many people doing it tough on the street.
Confusion around restrictions and border closures adds to the holiday season stress.
Rosies—Friends on the Street will operate throughout the Christmas season, including public holidays, conducting its normal outreach schedule so that anyone who is experiencing social isolation or homelessness will have a place to go, to feel at home and be with others.