WHEN Matt Parkinson founded MADCOW, he had big dreams of supporting the region's most vulnerable.
Now - almost 16 years later - thanks to a series of anonymous donations Mr Parkinson and the Make A Difference, Change Our World organisation plan to set up Bendigo's largest homelessness services hub.
Right in the heart of the city, the Hargeaves Street op shop and café currently acts as a joint support service for the homeless.
The profits from the op shop help serve three free meals a day out of the café next door and keep the water running for laundry and shower services.
Mr Parkinson now has the funding to buy the building from the landlord and refurbish it to serve more people.
"It's really amazing news." he said. "The plan now is to basically refurbish the entire building, the op shop will move out, and we will refit it all for homeless services."
MADCOW will now look for a new place for the op shop, as the entire building will be refitted purely for homelessness services.
Mr Parkinson said the demand for services was steadily increasing.
"At the end of 2020 - half-way through the pandemic - the guys on the street, the rough sleepers, they were just struggling," he said.
"So we set up a café-style area just for them, it was such a big hit."
Other services also ended up using the space during the pandemic, including Bendigo Health's mobile vaccination program, and Bendigo Community Health Services' mental health outreach programs.
"We will now build purpose-built facilities for the likes of Bendigo Health vaccination programs, Bendigo mental health services, dental services and others that can then come into our space and work with our clients who know us very well," Mr Parkinson said.
"We'll have a clinical room that they can access, in a place that they've come to trust.
"Ultimately, they will hopefully earn the trust and relationships to get them the services they need to get off the street when they're ready."
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Mr Parkinson said being able to remain in the same location was vital to the success of the service.
"It's a super good location for us, because one, they know us, they know this is where it is and where to go," he said.
"But also it's still within the CBD, but it's outside the shopping retail centre.
"But the other thing is we're surrounded by Centrelink, the new courthouse, Anglicare and job agencies."
MADCOW has been chatting to clients and taking feedback to plan what will feature in its new facilities.
The answer: more showers, variation in meals, better laundry facilities and a recreation room.
"We'll also get a storage facility to house their belongings, phone charging stations which are really important, and hopefully a day couch so they can have a snooze." Mr Parkinson said.
"The model has grown a lot as we've gone along.
"We want to take their insight and adapt our plans as such."
MADCOW hopes to remain open while the facility is refit.
"We've been working with council who is helping us with the plans," Mr Parkinson said.
"We will hopefully transform the front of the now op shop into the café while we refit everything else.
"We don't want to have to close for any length of time while we do this."
The new facility is made possible thanks to a million-dollar donation from Sidney Myer and a half-a-million-dollar donation from an anonymous community member.
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