IN the quiet of the hotel-like lobby, there's little indication something incredibly special is happening upstairs.
Elevator doors slide open to a hive of activity, knives and forks clatter on plates, the smell of freshly ground coffee hangs in the air and the whirr of clippers and a deep, belly laugh rings out from the barbershop.
The space is fitted out with all the latest technology, there's lush greenery, comfortable chairs to wile away the hours, even a fish tank - but what's special about Soul Hub's new digs isn't tangible, it's an overwhelming feeling of hope.
At the helm of the operation is general manager Matt Ortiger, one of many who make Soul Hub more than a meal.
"Nobody's perfect, we want people to come in and not only feel welcome, but to not feel judged, to be accepted and to find a place of belonging here," he said.
"So many people are relationally disconnected and we want people to find a sense of belonging and community with us, but we're wildly hopeful that maybe, just maybe, things can change, the story can take a new direction."
At Soul Hub, there's a lot of talk about a 'convergence of help'. Whether that's access to the food pantry, a place to play board games, see a doctor, lawyer or connect with Service NSW - something as simple as a hair cut could be a stepping stone to leaving addiction behind.
"But maybe there aren't wins like that," Mr Ortiger said.
"Maybe you just come in and we never have a win, we never have a transformation, all we did was have an experience where you were treated with dignity, value and worth even though you've struggled all your life.
"There's no real prescription, we're just hopeful about lots of things."
For years, Soul Hub operated out of a rent-free venue in the CBD with the help of Westpac.
In late 2021, the charity was approached by the Ian and Shirley Norman Foundation who offered them a new home, rent free, for at least the next decade.
With the support of the community and local businesses, Soul Hub raised $1.8 million for its purpose-built facility, which is kitted out with a spacious commercial kitchen, a welcoming dining hall, doctor's consultation room, meeting spaces and a laundry where guests can have their clothes washed, dried and folded while they have lunch.
Already they've seen a 40 per cent increase in numbers from the old venue, and can offer more services with dedicated spaces for external organisations to come in - anything from Centrelink or drug and alcohol counselling to NDIS workers or a podiatrist.
"There's no way we could have done that in the old building," Mr Ortiger said.
"There's a million different reasons to come in and get connected in this space."
And there's just as many reasons guests find their way to Soul Hub. People like Rick who "got tangled up" with Soul Cafe 10 years ago after doing it hard in a drought, John who like the rest of us gets lonely sometimes, or Ben who lives in his car.
"We're all in the same sitch, it doesn't matter if you're working or not, we're all in a tight ship, but we all get each other," Rick said.
"What I'm going through at the moment, I sit at home and just think and think, 'what if?' I start thinking stupid shit, so I come here to get out of my head.
"It helps me a lot, you're always welcome here, they get to know your story and get to know you, they don't judge you or look down their nose at you.
"I wouldn't be where I am now if it wasn't for Soul Cafe."
There's been an overwhelmingly positive response to the new space, with some guests even moved to tears to have somewhere to belong that's designed especially for them.
Mr Ortiger said the purpose-built facility purposely doesn't look like a soup kitchen.
"That's what you do for guests, because guests are special and that's the experience," he said.
Mr Ortiger said he was incredibly thankful to the Newcastle community for making it all happen, to the builders who did them a deal, to the mums and dads who made donations and the volunteers who keep the place ticking.
To know what's at the heart of Soul Hub, look no further than the kitchen where it all started - the writing is quite literally on the wall.
"We will do all we can with whatever we have for whoever comes through our doors".
Soul Hub's official opening will be held on Friday, with the new space open to the public from 12pm to 3.30pm, Level 1, 437 Hunter St.