Street Talk: The needy and the backpackers

I RECENTLY started volunteering with Manna Inc, an incredible organisation devoted to helping the needs of the less fortunate.

The primary service of Manna Inc is a six-day-a-week food service that it runs out of Weld Park, on the corner of Newcastle and Stirling streets.

Street Talk: Meet Sally and her ukulele

That’s what made me get involved; walking to my car from our Stirling Street office every day and seeing the plight that so many people in my own city are living in.

The decision to help was firmed with our recent trip to the US, where the homeless on the streets of San Francisco at times outnumbered the passers-by. This problem was on my own door-step and procrastinating was no longer acceptable.

That said, my role is a pretty easy one compared to the massive amount of work that some of the many volunteers pump into Manna.

Every Monday, I help prepare the meals in the East Victoria Park kitchen, before we load up the truck and drive into Weld Park, where we’re met by about 200 hungry mouths.

I then wander down after work on Wednesdays.

In the short time I’ve been there, something has stood out to me.

Backpackers. Guys and girls, alike.

They barely care to disguise themselves.

Wearing summer-suitable clothing of singlets and shorts – a luxury their fellow line members can’t always afford – they shuffle among the homeless and the truly needy and take the meals with a “Chrrs”.

As one of the new kids on the block, I didn’t feel it was my place to say anything and, sometimes, it’s difficult to discern between the rorters and the needy. The other aspect is that Manna doesn’t mind feeding those who are after a meal, so long as those in need receive one first.

It’s better than the food going to waste.

But the part that surprised me was the apparent disregard for those the food was truly meant for. What makes someone think, “I had enough money to travel halfway around the world, but it’s ok for me to take food meant for people who truly can’t afford it”?!

If you’re out of money, call home and get more sent through. That’s another luxury most of the Weld Park crew don’t always have. Many, I’m sure, don’t even have anyone they could call to talk to, let alone ask for money.

Those waiting their turn, that’s fine. Those who aren’t, should be ashamed of themselves.

They should be. But, they won’t be.

Anyway, check out this story by Irish newspaper, Irish Echo. It wraps it up nicely:


Young Irish lining up for free meals at Perth soup kitchen

An Irish welfare group in Perth says it has “delving to do” following reports Irish nationals are queuing for food at a Northbridge soup kitchen.

Manna Inc, which serves 200 meals a night six nights a week from a soup kitchen at Weld Park, is seeing more backpackers joining their queues.

Read More


EDIT: I just want to stress that, as Bev says in the article, Manna Inc doesn’t mind feeding anyone who wants to be fed, so long as there are leftovers and the needy are fed first. It’s better than the food going to waste!

What do you think? Is it ok for backpackers to be lining up for food meant for the needy? Or do you have another take on it? Feel free to leave a comment below.

12 thoughts on “Street Talk: The needy and the backpackers

  1. Good story Glen. Maybe the Manna people could ask for a show of WA Centrelink ID to have a meal……or get to the end of the queue. The Hari Krishna restaurant has some cheap meals in town & jaws always has good end of day bargains!! Maybe a flyer of information would assist the backpackers locate cheaper meals!!

  2. The Irish scumbags are a real problem in Perth. Fighting in Northbridge, lying about skills they posses to take tradie jobs,cramming 8 people into a one bedroom rental and now this.
    What next?

  3. Disgusting I admit. But family who lived opposite Wellington Square have often told me of people with briefcases and suits lining up with the homeless in the morning for coffee and a sandwich!

    • Hey VALZC,
      Thanks for commenting and taking the time. What Manna does is serve the needy, not just the homeless. Often, there are people wearing business attire who are still in some dire situations and have been donated the clothes in order to go for job interviews.

      Thanks again for reading and taking the time.

  4. many needy people are homeless & obtaining residential i.d. is very difficult when you do not have an address. A significant % also have mental health issues that prevent them from maintaining permanent accom. & compulsory proof driven access always hits the most vulnerable hardest.

  5. First of all, great work with joining Manna Inc. My former employer does some work with them and I’ve only heard great things.

    Regarding the backpackers this is something I’ve noticed in the 3 years I’ve been living in this area. Ive seen them pick up a food pack and then go to Coles and stock up on various food items. I’ve also witnessed many of the indigenous people pick up a container of food and either try to sell it to passers by or throw it at the bus. Then there was a very young Asian woman that broke my heart by not being able to get away from the crowds fast enough before ducking behind a corner and eating what was her first meal in awhile with her hands.

    I think the staff need to stand up and tell those who are quite obviously taking advantage that they are not welcome because its just not right.

    Sorry for the rant but this is obviously something that needs to addressed as it would be a shame to see this service stopped due to people that do not need it.

    • G’day Sarah,
      Wow, thanks for sharing. Yeah, there’s some situations that are plain shocking. And I mean “shocking” in the literal sense.

      Once I find my feet and confirm with the leaders that it’s ok to say something, I plan on addressing the situation.

      The thing is, Manna doesn’t mind handing out food to anyone who wants it, but only when the needy have been fed. It’s better than the leftovers going to waste.

      It might still be morally wrong, but if they go to the back of the line, it should be fine. The problem is, they’re not doing that.

      Thanks again, have a good weekend.

  6. Marise Coppinger July 19, 2013 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    For many years I feel I have ignored the plight of those in need as I always thought the government or agencies looked after them, so that’s not an issue to me. It was however after reading your article Glen that takes me back to a trip we had earlier this year to Italy.
    I was amazed at the amount of beggars at the train stations in particular in Rome and other tourist sites. They wanted anything, to a point where you felt almost threatened.
    These people were refugees, sorry no that’s not quite right they are from the EU but are mainly from the eastern eurorepean countries. No help with any food from anyone that we saw. I understand that the backbackers are probably taking advantage of an easy meal, but I think if morally they can stand in a queque after those in desperate need have had there meal then I personally would prefer to give the excess to those who think they have a need also, although we might not all agree. Not that I’m that religious in any way, but didn’t it say somewhere about many loaves & fishes. I think sharing in whatever capacity you are able to someone’s benefit is worthy. Keep up the good work:-)

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