SO I’M STANDING in front of a six-burner stove at the Winsome Hotel in Lismore. After leaving Rae’s on Watego’s as head chef and writing High Season: a memoir of heroin and hospitality (Allen & Unwin, 2012), as Chopper might say, I’ve really landed on my…knees. Not that anyone here cares how I’m feeling about cooking again.
The Winsome Hotel is currently operating as a homeless shelter. It’s a neat idea: strip the kegs, beer taps, and pokies out of an underperforming hotel and turn it into a space to provision hospitality to the homeless. It was hard not to say yes to participating in such a great initiative. The thing I immediately responded to is that the Winsome represents a civic response to homelessness. It is not being funded by a church or a religious order, which is not to say religious institutions don’t do a great deal of good work for the homeless, but I didn’t want to participate in a charity. The men at the Winsome don’t need charity: they need a place to sleep, access to a kitchen, a bathroom, and a space to socialise in and relax. Those things underscore what hospitality means, and the Winsome is a unique civic response to people who find themselves without a place to call home. Besides, for me, it’s a one-night stand. How bad can it be?
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