This story is from AAP.

On a regular Christmas Day, around 1000 homeless people sit down at the Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross for a Christmas lunch of ham, prawns and pudding.

This year, just 81 people will get a seat.

The homelessness charity is drastically scaling back its iconic event in light of the Covid-19 outbreak in Sydney and government restrictions.

Takeaway meals will replace the traditional sit-down affair for many, with those in need able to pick up a free breakfast or lunch and eat it elsewhere.

Rules around the number of people allowed in a space mean only 27 people will be able to sit down to eat in the Community Hall at a time.

There will be three seatings for lunch across the day, and spots are reserved for those experiencing homelessness or social isolation who register in advance.

It’s a far cry from the raucous street party and lunch held for the past 16 years, staffed by hundreds of volunteers, including high-profile names such as Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull, and attended by local community members.

The Wayside Chapel has also been forced to downsize its Christmas events in Bondi. Its Christmas Service, bingo and lunch events are going ahead at reduced capacity.

Community lunches which the charity had planned to hold daily in Kings Cross in the lead-up to Christmas were also cancelled, with takeaway food offered instead.

But the charity is turning to technology to salvage some of the Christmas line-up, with its Christmas Day service streaming live on its YouTube channel.

Sydney’s Wesley Mission has also turned to takeaway meals this Christmas.

“On Christmas Day itself, we can’t have the usual meals we wanted to inside. But outside the Wesley Centre on Pitt St we will be serving takeaway Christmas meals for people,” Wesley Mission chief executive Reverend Keith Garner told the Sydney Morning Herald.

More than 2000 meals will be served to homeless and needy people in Ashfield by the Reverend Bill Crews Foundation as well.

Christmas Day lunch will be takeaway and served with sanitiser, Covid marshals and social distancing.

“It’s all about bringing a little ray of sunshine into the lives of those who’ve done it extra tough this year,” Foundation director Reverend Crews said.

“We’ll give more than 2000 Christmas meals to the needy, many of whom would otherwise go without,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Telstra says its public payphones around the country will operate for free from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day as a small gesture to ensure everyone has the chance to connect during the festive season.

For many, especially vulnerable people like the homeless or those escaping an unsafe family situation, the 15,000 public phones around the country offer a vital lifeline.

Last year’s initiative saw almost half a million calls placed for free during the Christmas period.



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