DRERS lends a helping hand

From left: DRERS president, Frank Watson, Volunteers Helen Lutshesko, Cath Connelly, Selina Grimes, John Landon and DRERS Manager Tania Bevan outside their new location at the Belgrave Hub.

By Derek Schlennstedt

For Emerald resident Jayson Walmsley it was just one thing after another.

“All I’ve been doing is getting knocked, and knocked and knocked, and when someone can help you and go in to bat for you it’s everything.”

Five months ago, Jayson(50) was unsure how he would feed himself. The bills and debts were piling up and it seemed that there were no resources or facilities available to him.

When he walked into the foyer of the Dandenong Ranges Emergency Relief Service everything changed.

“I was in debt with a few weeks of rent, I had bills coming out of my ears, I had no money and I had nothing. “

“I went to Centrelink in Belgrave and they couldn’t help me with anything, so they gave me a pamphlet with DRERS on it.

“I was that disheartened and down and pretty much crying and I come into here and they just sat down and were so kind and asked ‘what’s wrong, how can we help you?’”

“When I walked out of here not only did I have a smile on my face, but my shoulders were back, I had two bags of groceries in my hands, a cheque in my back pocket for the rent, a few vouchers in my pocket for Coles and Woolworths, and mate the feeling I had that somebody – some community group – really cares for me was overwhelming.”

While Jayson found DRERS many others in the hills don’t, and Tania Bevan said there are many out there that were suffering or going without.

“We find ourselves assisting more people who are homeless than ever before. Is it a rise in homelessness, or is it is just that more people who are homeless are aware of our service? Maybe both,” Ms Bevan said.

“Either way, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that there are many people who are homeless, in all age groups, and we as a community must be able to do more to help.”

For Jayson he was able to find help at DRERS and is facing a brighter path.

His message to others in a similar situation is simple: ‘don’t give up, and if you’re able, visit or donate to DRERS’.

“Anyone can come to DRERS for food, you don’t have to starve and they clean you up and make you feel like a human.”

“They don’t look down on you they help you up. If you’re a bit down or down trodden, just come in and see these people. There’s some compassion and empathy here that you don’t find very often and I thank everyone here for that.”

“The thing is if DRERs didn’t help me I would’ve ended up in cardboard box in Spencer Street with nothing because I had nothing else,” Jayson said.

The Dandenong Ranges Emergency Relief Service can be found at the bottom floor of the Belgrave Hub and is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 12:30pm.

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