Vinnies Blacktown hub a state first for people in need

GUARDIAN ANGEL: Vinnies Blacktown hub manager Kate Jago and Evelyn Tiska. Ms Jago helped Ms Tiska when she was at a crisis point in April. Picture: Supplied
GUARDIAN ANGEL: Vinnies Blacktown hub manager Kate Jago and Evelyn Tiska. Ms Jago helped Ms Tiska when she was at a crisis point in April. Picture: Supplied

As a single mother of four, Evelyn Tiska was already struggling to make ends meet before she was hit with a shock $2900 electricity bill.

The end of her abusive marriage had shattered her confidence, leaving her unable to find steady work, when a faulty water tank in her rental property sent her into a dangerous debt spiral.

Ms Tiska was just one week behind on her rent when she was served an eviction notice, at a time she was due to appear in court over a water bill.

Half an hour before her court appearance, she walked into Blacktown’s Vinnies hub and spoke to the manager Kate Jago.

Ms Jago called the court officer, paid the bill over the phone, and organised for Ms Tiska to get counselling.

“I walked out of these doors here with a renewed hope that everything was going to be okay,” Ms Tiska said.

“At the most difficult stage, God was with me through these beautiful people here.”

Four months on, Ms Tiska is now in regular work and volunteering for the Lisa Harnum Foundation, to help other women who are going through what she survived.

“We can all make a difference, no matter how small our contribution may be,” she said.

Ms Tiska shared her emotional story with a small group of volunteers and special guests at the official unveiling of the Blacktown hub on Friday.

Located within the Vinnies retail store, the hub is the first of its kind in NSW, servicing up to 12 people in need each day as well as taking walk-in clients.

The hub can provide basic food, tents, blankets and sheets, as well as referral to other services.

But often what people need most is a listening ear.

St Vincent de Paul Society NSW chief executive Jack de Groot said the hub had proved a successful model for other areas to follow.

“A hub like this is about people,” he said. “It’s not about services, it’s about people and meeting them where they’re at.”

Mr de Groot also warned that increasing cost of living, most notably electricity prices, was pushing Australia to the verge of a crisis.

The Blacktown hub helped 181 families, including 150 children, in July alone. In that same time, Vinnies distributed $1 million worth of energy rebates statewide – nearly triple the combined total of the previous three months.

“This may sound like a great achievement but it’s only a reflection of a broader social crisis,” Mr de Groot said. “There are significant challenges facing too many families.”