Helping those with no home
Kind acts keep people on streets warm and fed
WHILE most of us are tucked up at home Steve Cowie and his band of volunteers brave the winter cold to distribute blankets, warm clothes and kindness to those living on the streets.
Every Wednesday night for the past seven years, they have set up their Clothesline van near St Mary’s Cathedral to offer their services to the 150 mostly men, who line up for meals from Bill Crews’ Exodus Foundation.
“When I used to drive the food van homeless people would come up and ask if we had any warm clothing because they were freezing,” said Mr Cowie, a former UK police officer.
“So when Bill Crews took over the van seven years ago I thought it was time to start operating a clothing van.”
He and fellow founder Ralph Feller started off sourcing second hand clothing, but now manufacturers give Clothesline new clothing or seconds to pass on.
Mr Cowie, a former Surrey policeman, migrated from the UK in the ’ 70s and has been an insurance investigator and fire investigator for Lloyds of London and worked with the Juvenile Justice Department.
The 65-year-old old retired a few months ago but has been volunteering for more than 25 years.
“I have always believed in working in the community,” Mr Cowie said.
“You get so much from doing something for others.”
The Clothesline team typifies the spirit of DoSomething Day, Australia’s biggest ever celebration of volunteering and random acts of kindness, being promoted by NewsLocal newspapers, the DoSomething charity and Your Local Club.
To be held on June 15, it aims to encourage people to pitch in and do something positive in their community.
Volunteers at Clothesline come from all over Sydney.
Among them is Brian Wilkinson, a retired auditor from Concord.
When he was working he used to do the corporate charity day and just wanted to do more.
“I love it and wouldn’t miss it for the world. It’s just a great night out, you really feel you are helping.
“There are a lot of psychological problems and people down on their luck but they are interesting people.”
The people they help range in age from teens to their 70s.
“We used to have one man come down who was 94 and he use to visit us because he was lonely,” Brian said.
Their clients say they appreciate the dedication and service of the Clothesline team.
Benjamin, 40, says he likes the freedom of the streets, but not the lack of security.
“I come here (to the food van and clothing desk) for clean clothing, a warm meal and the community,” he said.
Ben receives aid from the Clothesline charity.