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Lentil as anything- Collingwood, abbotsford convent

Lentil as anything is a restaurant with a twist, and a community bent that is pretty unique. Their motto is “food, culture, community” and as soon as you walk in, you can feel that positive vibe all the way!

Here, you “pay as you feel” – all meals, and coffee are paid for on a donation basis. The food is not free, by any means, but tLentil as anything collingwood abbotsfor convent - Lunch vegetarianhis system does allow people from all sorts of social demographics and situations to sit down in the same restaurant, and eat as equals. Maybe even have a chat if at one of the big communal tables!

http://lentilasanything.com/

A recommended donation of $15-$25 for a meal applies, and there is a billboard which gives you some guidance.

One cool thing is that “lentils”, as it is affectionately known, is a tax deductible entity, and you can obtain a receipt if you choose to donate to them online on their website.

If you are feeling generous today, make a donation now, and drop in to check the place out sometime.

http://lentilasanything.com/donate/

The restaurant is a true social enterprise, where all the profits, if there are any that month get plowed back into training and helping people who need a leg up in the employment market, and maintaining the restaurnats as a safe and inclusive place that people of all walks of life might like to visit, even if they cannot normally afford to go to a restaurant.

If you want, you can even volunteer to help out with the front of house, or kitchen handing. Both are quite fun, where full, ad hoc training is provided, and you can get a chance to learn how a real commercial restaurant actually operates.

http://lentilasanything.com/volunteering/

The meals are predominantly vegetarian, and in some branches of the restaurant, like in preston, the food is full and strict vegan. There are six restaurants Australia wide- with five in the melbourne area- Preston, Thornbury, St Kilda, Footscray, Sydney, and, of course, Abbotsford.

Lunch and dinner most nights is on a bain maree- all you can eat buffet style format, while Friday nights are an a’la’carte format.

Plated, cooked to order breakfasts are also served from 9am to 11am most days in Abbotsford. And, my, they are amazing breakfasts!

The farmers dosa is my particular favourite, as are the spicy pancakes. The home brewed swiss style bircher muesli is also a treat to behold. Lentils soundly puts most overpriced and overrated cafes to shame with their simple, delicious and inexpensive breakfasts.

The coffee is typically excellent, and also covers a range of unusual mochas, chai lattes, and everything in between. make sure you try the “dirty happy hippy” if you happen to drop in!

Sadly, the future of Lentils in Abbotsford is under threat at present, with a competitive tender process for the lease being put in place, where “hospitality focused” proponents are invited to take up tenancy. Lentils was not formally invited to participate in the tender process, and indications from the board of the Abbotsford convent foundation (ACF) has refused to engage directly with lentils, and has expressed that despite the 11 year long relationship, and being a founding tenant, Lentils will be offered no special treatment.

In 2011 a similar process was attempted, but community backlash and a roar of support from its customers saw the ACF back down and preserve lentil’s keystone position in the convent, which attracts over one million visitors annually.

 

 

Infoguy of Melbourne- Homeless to role model

infoguy nightride busI’d just arrived in Melbourne, at a time of the year when the damp, coursing rain, and bone chilling winds rule the streets and suburbs, and, of course, I just had to explore the nocturnal fruits of the city.

After the music stopped, the band packed up, last drinks were served, and we had consumed the mandatory utterly delicious grease, carbs and protein feast that is the glorious rocketburger and fries combo, it was time to part ways and head home.. “oh, bro, you have to taxi it this time of the night- the trains stop at midnight”

Slight problem. My house was at the end of the earth, and I really didn’t fancy spending half a days pay conveying my very tired, and slightly inebriated body back there.

Asking a few similarly stumbly locals outside the deserted and spooky, vaguely urine perfumed façade of the iconic Flinders Street Station on Elizabeth street, I discovered that the budget late night transport option of choice was a wheezing nightrider bus…

A conveyance that generally reeks of kebabs, broken dreams and something vaguely and unpleasantly vintage cheesy at 30 paces in the Swanston st bus mall, and i’m not talking about the stench of maccas and KFC wafting from their open entrances.

Only problem, that there were over a dozen stops to choose from.. and as I blearily stared at the sputum and grease smeared perspex route map placards at each stop, I found them incomprehensible. I just wanted to go home.

Infoguy melbourne homeless nightrider deskThen I noticed a bloke in a high vis fluoro vest, directing similarly cluseless and lost people to the right buses.

He had a little makeshift desk set up, made of a few milk crates, stacked, a laminated info “I” symbol stuck on the front, with a tabletop, a box, post it notes, and a few other papers and paraphernalia on top… like a tourist infodesk.

I didn’t think anything unusual about the setup at that point. drunk people proof maybe? that made sense.

YES! must be a late night PTV customer service worker. Just what I needed. :)

Dutifully, I lined up, and waited to be served.

The apparent PTV guy was a cheery, industrious looking fellow, with a quick smile and was unusually cheery and happy for a somebody who obviously had been dealing with stroppy drunk, tired and  “where do you need to go mate?” I told him my suburb.

infoguy melbourne helping infromation tourist customer service homeless“Ok, you are around here then” *he points, thumbing a circle around my suburb*

“Can you point out your street at all? you have a couple of route choices” he waved his hand theatrically, tracing a couple lines up and down.

Looking down at the big map, filled with hand drawn lines of what must be bus routes, I was rather impressed with myself to be able to indicate my house.

“Ok, you need to take the Eltham bus- that’s the best one for you, the next one is at 03:30AM”

Leaning down over his “desk”, he scribbled the details on a post it note, carefully folded it into quarters, and pressed it into my hand.

Then he threw the curveball.

“I’m a homeless person. I struggle with homelessness every day, and all donations are much appreciated”

He indicated toward the plastic box on the makeshift table, where a few solitary coins were camped out.

I lurched off toward the bus stop he indicated… then just… stopped. had an incredulous double take moment. Turned. Shook off the slight fuzz of alcohol (yeah, ok I’d only had two beers, but I’m a terminal lightweight cheap date), and fatigue, And opened my eyes, and saw.

infoguy homelss man melbourne degraves street subwayThe orange vest had the insignia of a cold storage company on it, the coat was good quality, but a bit tatty. Shoes looked worn, and the jeans a bit shabby…  the man’s face marked with experience, eyes misted with distant memories of better times.

This was a man that had nothing, on the edge of society, was probably struggling with mental illnesses and living in the cold unforgiving street of Melbourne. Was probably hungry and alone often.

I felt for my wallet, fished out the coins, and strode back to the desk and dumped them in. I felt lighter. Somehow seeing a homeless man being entrepreneurial, find a place in a city, a society that was valued, made my own problems, fears and aspirations seem so small, and easy to overcome and accomplish.  There was somebody that had stepped up from a low impossible to fathom to help himself, and others.

Every coin was deserved. Earned

I caught his eye, directly- looked at him as an equal. with respect, not pity.

“Thankyou”

That’s all I needed to say.infoguy melbourne central railway tube station

His little “business” even had a facebook page. Solid gold. i didn’t look at it at the time though.

I didn’t see him around for a long time after that, though I did have a feeling I he might have been a guy in Degraves street selling the “Big Issue” magazine. I wasn’t sure though.

I hoped that his disappearance was a good sign, that times had turned for the better for him.

It wasn’t till many, many months later, quite recently, I saw him again at the Swanston street mall again.

I didn’t need any help, but I threw some coins in the box anyway, and stopped to have a chat, and congratulate him on having the up and go, gumption and courage to do something positive, and do a hard days  work (or in this case, nights work) , well, and with pride and competence.

infoguy melbourne central helpdesk volunteer homelessTurned out that things were indeed on the up for him, as he proudly told me that Melbourne central shopping centre had allowed him to set up shop below the shot tower, doing what he does best- customer service.

A professional looking desk had even entered into the equation.

The place is a confusing maze, and the touch panels seem always broken or no help at all.  I can see how he saw a  niche opportunity there.

I was also amazed when he shared with me that he had been living homeless for 30 years.

Looking at his desk, I noticed he had set up a facebook page. Even homeless people understand the importance of the digital channel for promotion and customer interaction. Fantastic.

On that, I learned more of his story.

https://www.facebook.com/InfoGuy-of-Melbourne-351917111682585/?fref=ts

The guy even somehow GRADUATED from Latrobe university, with a Bachelor of arts recentlyinfoguy graduation latrobe iniversity bachelor of arts.

An amazing, and difficult achievement in itself for us regular, fortunate humans with a warm bed, home and support mechanisms to help us along.

But one degree is not enough for this courageous fellow. Next year he plans to study towards a masters of speech pathology at Charles Stuart university.

Well done, I salute you sir!

You have come a long way in six years, starting outside the Degraves street subway entrance of flinders street station in June 2008, warning people that the entrance to the station closed after 10PM, trying to prevent people from missing their trains.

It’s been step by step in the right direction over the years- from the humble subway sentinel, to drunk person drover, festival football and concert traffic director, shopping centre sage, and now finally, educated man reaching toward the light from the darkness.

Hopefully, the next trip on your journey will be a job, a home and everything that others take for granted in their lives.

All the best, true personality, battler and friend of the city of Melbourne.

 

 

 

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