Warm up for winter by warming the hearts of those less fortunate

Homeless

It may not be front-of-mind for most people, but homelessness is a very real struggle for thousands of Australians. At the most recent Census, the rate of homelessness had increased 4.6% from the previous five years – meaning more than 116,000 people in our country don’t have a place to call home.

With winter on its way, life gets even harder. With a lack of decent shelter and often inadequate clothing, homeless Australians do it tough on our streets, often struggling to survive, let alone work towards a brighter future.

Thankfully there are many different charities, soup kitchens and shelters right around the country to assist the homeless during the colder months. You can do your part too, whether it’s something small like donating a blanket or fundraising around your local community.

Here are seven ways to get started.

1. Volunteer at a winter shelter

Whether you’re in a metropolitan city or a regional town, you’re likely to find a homeless shelter somewhere nearby. Start by doing an online search for shelters in your local area and find out if they are currently accepting volunteers.

Victoria’s Winter Shelter, for example, is an organisation whose mission is to provide people with “a warm meal, a safe place to sleep, and a welcoming smile”. They’re currently coordinating their Winter Shelter 2019 drive and you can sign up to be a volunteer online.

2. Donate to support agencies or buy a Big Issue

Shelters and volunteer organisations always need funding – to buy food, clothing and keep a roof over the heads of those who are less fortunate. A direct monetary donation is always welcome, but you can also donate goods to charities, such as canned food, winter clothing and more.

And when you’re out and about on the streets, why not put a few dollars to a good cause by buying a copy of the latest Big Issue? The independent, not-for-profit organisation is “dedicated to supporting and creating work opportunities for homeless, marginalised and disadvantaged people”. It’s quick, easy, and does a world of good for Australians doing it tough.

3. Become a member of the Council to Homeless Persons

Education and awareness are key for any sort of change to take place. And when it comes to homelessness in Australia, its causes are varied and complex.

If you’d like to learn more about the homeless issue in Australia, you can join one of several organisations around the country, such as the Council to Homeless Persons. The campaign is free to join and is designed to find housing solutions for all Australians, no matter their circumstances – a vital concern especially during the coldest times in winter.

4. Help out at a Vinnies soup kitchen

Soup kitchen is a term we’re more familiar hearing about in America, but there are plenty of charities that offer free meals in ‘soup kitchen’ style buildings in most towns and cities.

Taking that passion to feed the less fortunate on the road, the St Vincent de Paul Society runs regular soup vans – or Vannies, as they’re affectionately known. You can volunteer with Vinnies this winter and help break the stigma of homelessness, one warm meal at a time.

5. Donate your warm winter clothes

If you simply don’t have the time to join an organisation or volunteer at soup kitchens, you can still make a difference to homeless Australians this winter.

Warm clothes are essential this time of year no matter where you reside. And for the thousands of homeless on our streets, they rely on clothing donations to make it through the winter months.

There are dozens of charities that will accept your warm clothes, blankets and toiletries. ClothesLine, for example, distributes 100% of all donations to needy people around Sydney.

6. Drop off your unused blankets

Beyond clothes, blankets are a vital commodity for Australia’s homeless population. If you’re considering donating some of your warm winter clothes, why not see if you have any blankets that are no longer used and could be donated to a person in need?

Missionbeat – which is made up of regular patrols by Mission Australia volunteers – has put out an urgent call for blanket donations. As they say, “We know that a blanket won’t reduce homelessness, but it is one way we can work together to provide some comfort and dignity to a person.”

7. Spend your valuable time helping those less fortunate

Your local council should have a page on their website dedicated to donations, charity groups and volunteering opportunities.

The City of Sydney, for example, has a section covering all of the above. You’re bound to find an opportunity that suits your skill set and availability, including charities like Pets in the Park, Rough Edges, the Salvos, Vinnies, Swags for Homeless and more.

As the temperature drops and the days get shorter, spare a moment for those without a place to call home – even the small bit of help can make a real difference.

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