For Vanessa, Senior Program and Practice Manager for Wesley Homeless Services, a routine site visit at Wesley Edward Eagar Centre (WEEC) turned out to be more emotional than she anticipated.
“You know I got teary on our site tour, right?” she laughs over a video chat.
“The thing that really impacted me was how [our construction partner] Lipman was taking care and being respectful of the building. It’s like we’ve released WEEC to them to take care of so we can make sure it can take care of others for the next couple of decades.”
“I didn’t realise how important that was to me,” she says. “My heart was just saying ‘thank you’ to them.”
Vanessa now finds herself primarily at Ashfield, where she and the team continue to support adults needing crisis accommodation as major upgrades continue at Surry Hills.
“My job interview was in that building, my first twelve to eighteen months was in that building, and then I moved up and around to other roles, but it was always my home base,” she says.
Vanessa’s reaction conveys the extent of WEEC’s transformation over the last five months. The heritage-listed, crisis accommodation site is experiencing a change from within, with work starting on incorporating a new lift shaft, commercial kitchen, multi-function rooms and additional offices.
But perhaps the most exciting aspect is the complete refurbishment of the residential accommodation rooms. Demarcations are currently marked inside a hive of wires, internal fit outs and scaffolding, but in its final form the new rooms, with an ensuite bathroom in each bedroom, will ensure residents have a space they can call their own.
“There are less rooms, but there’s going to be more intensive support for people in those rooms,” says Vanessa.
“Wesley Mission is big on providing dignity, respect and privacy, as the opportunity for our clients to have their own place is often out of their control.”
“Our clientele is not going to change. We are committed to serving those most in need. From old building to new building that transition of care, that core vision to ‘do all the good we can’, that desire to carry the hope for our clients when they can’t, is still going to be there.”
You can see this reflected in the building façade, which has borne almost 200 years of care in its weathered sandstone and will continue to serve as a physical representation of hope. Over the coming months heritage stone masons will see that the site’s exterior is refreshed as part of restoration works.
“It’s not every day you realise you’re part of a living legacy,” she says.
“This new building is going to be around for years to come, but we’re actually living in the history of that being made right now.”
At the core of WEEC’s living history are those who have found a home within its walls.
“There will always be an open door within that building for anyone who needs support for whatever reason. That’s been WEEC all the way through since the day it was established.”
“And it’s for you,” she says with a smile, pointing into her screen as if she were addressing someone else in the room. “This building is for you, it’s not for us [the staff]. It’s being built for you with you in mind, just like Jesus walked the earth with you in mind.”
“It’s exciting, isn’t it?”
Wesley Mission is continuing to support women and men needing crisis accommodation at two alternate locations, one in inner-city Sydney and the other in the Inner West, as upgrades continue at Wesley Edward Eagar Centre.