With its bright blue muralled wall on the thoroughfare of Darlinghurst's Victoria Road, it's hard to miss the Rough Edges café. Since it opened in 1996, Rough Edges has established itself as a stalwart of the local community, serving the inner city's homeless and marginalised communities through a nightly meal service, as well as community outreach programs like counselling, legal assistance and domestic violence assistance through its Banksia Women program.
Now that on-premises dining is currently prohibited, Rough Edges, like all other cafés and eateries in Sydney, has been forced to adapt. However, it's a slightly different story when the café's clientele depends on the meals they receive at Rough Edges – not only to stay well-fed, but also for regular social interaction, which can often be lacking within homeless communities. Rough Edges' Jen Webster said its patrons attend the volunteer-manned café for a guaranteed meal, but also for the promise of a safe gathering space in which they can chat to each other and to the meal service 'vollies' on shift on a particular night.
While this sit down service has currently been tabled, the folks behind Rough Edges are undeterred, continuing to feed the café's patrons with a new takeaway service by providing pre-packaged meals over three nights a week (Wednesdays, Thursday and Fridays) for one hour from 7.30-8.30pm, during which patrons can attend, collect their prepared food, and go on their way.
To allow patrons the chance for regular social interaction, Rough Edges is hosting a call service, in which patrons can sign up on the Rough Edges website to receive a weekly call from one of the regular volunteers.
Given that Rough Edges' profitable aspects are off the agenda for the moment – their 'Urban Exposure' social justice education program runs group tours around the inner city, highlighting Sydney's urban history and the process of the city's gentrification.
St John's Community Services, which runs both Rough Edges and Urban Exposure, is now launching a telephone appeal to fund Rough Edges to continue its vital services. You can donate here.