By Jessica Anstice
Outraged volunteers and clients stormed the streets of Pakenham to protest the closure of the 4Cs Crisis Relief Centre on Thursday 10 October.
Over 50 protesters took to Main Street to express their concerns and raise awareness about the importance of the charity organisation.
Protest signs read ‘secure long term funding needed’, ‘save 4Cs’, and ‘269,000kgs of food per year distributed’.
Two 4Cs clients travelled all the way from Lakes Entrance to protest.
“I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for the 4Cs,” Emily McGinnes said.
“I’ve had two strokes and MS and without these guys I couldn’t afford to go to my appointments, I couldn’t afford anything. All my clothing and everything are through the 4Cs.
“If they shut them down people like us are going to suffer and we’re not going to be able to eat.”
Ms McGinnes and her partner David Maat told the Gazette of when they lived on the streets of Pakenham for two and a half years, and without the 4Cs they would still be homeless.
When hearing of the closure, Ms McGinnes said her instant thought was, “we’re going to go hungry, we’re going to starve”.
“As soon as 4Cs close everything is going to go through the roof again, it’s not fair,” she said.
“The other organisations that I’ve been to have pushed me away, they have turned their back on me, the only people that haven’t turned their backs are the 4Cs.
“Why can’t we be fed here in Cardinia? Why isn’t the council standing up and helping?”
Devastated at the thought of the closure, Mr Maat said he feels he has lost all hope.
“The ways they make you feel there, they actually give you hope and make you feel like you are going to get back out of the gutter. No other joint does that,” he said.
“Now that they’re closing there’s no more hope anymore. If you walk into the Salvation Army, you don’t get the same happy environment as you do at 4Cs.
“It doesn’t matter what day of the week, if we see the volunteers down the street they’re so friendly to us and they treat us like humans.”
The 4Cs are currently open three days a week, with about 50 volunteers and only two paid employees. Up to 120 families use the service weekly, taking home trolleys full of food.
“We want the state and federal governments to fund to continue the work that’s been going on for 20 years,” volunteer Jo Robertson said.
“It’s been quoted as ‘4Cs decided to close’ but they only made that decision because they haven’t got the funds to stay open.
“Council feel that we’re getting into them, but we’re not. We want council to support us by lobbying the governments and to continue paying the rent. We want them to be our voice and hassle the governments.”
Ms Robertson confirmed the 4Cs volunteers have “nothing against” the Salvation Army, but says she doesn’t believe it can provide the same service as 4Cs.
“A lot of these people here (at the protest) are actually our clients and I just can’t see them going to the Salvation Army,” she said.
“The Salvation Army aren’t as personal and from what we know, our clients are going to have to make an appointment to go there which isn’t crisis.
“It’s just so sad. I feel like the council has no faith in us.”
Cardinia Shire Council have not yet responded to the protest. The Salvation Army was also contacted for comment.