The signboard is always up, always enticing – great meal deals for not very much, good coffee and tea while catching up with a friend and the venue is right bang in the centre of town. And that is not all.
I had walked past the signboard and was often tempted but it was not till last week that I decided to go in and have a closer look. Someone had mentioned to me that there was a dimension to this café, which I was keen to explore.
I sat and chatted to John Holmes, the passionate manager of this interesting venue. The story, because there is one, starts all the way back in 1925. This was when the population was mainly rural and families would come in to do their shopping and their inoculations. This was the heart of Brisbane and they used this as a convenient place to drop off their shopping and get their jobs done before catching the bus to go back home. They were called the Rest Rooms. It was an early day Starbucks if you like – though I hate to make the analogy, it may be well understood. Instead of Internet connections they had phones they could use and writing desks.
The ownership of the café passed to the Red Cross in 1984 and they still own it today though it is operated under the franchise of Commix, which is a community franchise, which brings people together.
We know the Red Cross from so many of its activities in war torn areas and its commitment to helping all irrespective of ethnic or religious background but this aspect of their work is perhaps less well known. Through the café they raise funds, so every time you go and eat there or have a drink, at perfectly affordable prices, all the proceeds go to helping young homeless people of 12-25. Yes 12 and they can be homeless. It's a bit of a chilling thought just imagining your 12 year old being homeless, not knowing where his next meal was going to come from. So every Tuesday and Thursday night the café is transformed to a place where 30 – 50 homeless young people can come to have a meal, have a shower and be given clothes if they need them and books and information to help them re find the path to a more stable and secure life.
Trouble is that during John Howard's years as PM there was a fund of $5 million that could be used to help them with projects such as these. This has now been axed by the Abbott government, though the local council is still supportive and provides some subsidies.
So you see the need. You see the dignified and correct way this project is approached. You see why you and everyone passing by the sign post, particularly in times like the lead up to Xmas, can make a difference by consciously deciding to support the Café. Personally I would choose to do it always because it is such a mixture of history, social enterprise and care within our community - just the type of place that appeals to me. And there is a quietness and a coolness to it which allows you time to collect your thoughts and recharge.
Thankyou for this article. My mother used to take me there as a child (the toilets were so grand!), and I would also lug my own child's pram up and down the steps 20 years ago in order to indulge in a cuppa and some inner city peace. When it closed for the City Hall refurbishment I forgot all about it, so thankyou so much for this reminder, and I will be dropping in tomorrow!