There are 486 people doing it in Sydney per night: here’s how you can help
Being locked out of a venue is one thing. To be locked out of permanent accommodation – through poverty, mental illness, or fear of domestic violence – is another. As homelessness rates in Sydney rise, these organisations are stepping up. By Lachlan Anderson
Walking around Central Station or along most streets in the CBD, it’s unusual not to see any homeless people. They’re camped in doorways and under stairs; in parks and on pavements. A recent overnight count by the City of Sydney (February 2016) found 890 homeless people, of whom 486 were sleeping rough – an increase of 33 per cent on the previous year.
The City surveyed 516 homeless people last December and found that the average time spent living on the streets was over five years. Almost half of the respondents claimed to have experienced some form of abuse whether physical, psychological, sexual or emotional.
There are lots of simple ways to get involved and assist those who’ve fallen through the social safety net. The following charitable groups are a good place to start.
ORANGE SKY LAUNDRY
Orange Sky is a world-first service: a free mobile laundry for the homeless, started by mates and Young Australians of the Year 2016, Lucas Pratchett and Nic Marchesi. They partner with food trucks to offer rough sleepers clean clothes, a meal and a chat. “Our model to begin with is to have a conversation with our homeless friends,” says Emma Wu, Orange Sky Laundry’s Sydney service manager. “Really, the washing is secondary.” You can find them daily in eight different locations around the CBD and Inner West. All locations are next to or near other food truck services. You can donate to the cause to keep the vans running or volunteer your time to help. www.orangeskylaundry.com.au.
VINNIE’S NIGHT PATROL SYDNEY
Vinnie’s Sydney Night Patrol has been running for 52 years. Two vans travel around the city every night offering food, hot drinks, blankets and toiletries. “We have three parts to our service,” says Night Patrol coordinator Rachel Stoddart. “Giving people something to eat, chatting to people and forming friendships, and that’s something that people experiencing homelessness crave the most.” They can then use those conversations to better understand someone’s needs and help refer them on to other services. Current volunteer spots are full for the city patrol but applications for the Liverpool team and the emergency backup list are greatly encouraged. 02 9518 0303. www.vinnies.org.au.
SHARE THE DIGNITY
When you give to a charity you generally donate things like food, blankets and old clothes. But how often do you think to include women’s sanitary products? Share the Dignity is a nationwide initiative running collections of tampons, pads and liners for charities and shelters. Tampons and pads are generally the least donated goods to shelters but, because 44 per cent of homeless people in Australia are women, they are in huge demand. “Women don’t talk about their periods,” says Kellie Hanser from Share the Dignity NSW. “It took a very strong person to stand up and make noise about it.” You can find details of their April collection by visiting their website. www.sharethedignity.com.au.
Neami National’s Way2Home team are reaching out to people on the streets and getting them into housing. They’re a City of Sydney-funded organization who go out and meet people where they are to make sure they can tailor their support to individuals based on their specific needs. They heip steer the homeless through the process to get into housing
and make sure they stay housed. If you are concerned about someone sleeping rough you can call Way2Home or get involved in City of Sydney’s street counts, which count the number of people sleeping rough in Sydney twice a year. Way2Home manager Tamara Sequeira says that simple acts are often the most helpful. “A cheerful smile, a ‘good morning’ and a cool bottle of water, I think, goes a long way.” 1800 505 501. www.neaminational.org.au.
HOPESTREET URBAN EDUCATION
Ever wondered what it would be like to live rough? HopeStreet’s Urban Education program allows you to have that experience with guided tours of the Woolloomooloo area, where stories are told about the realities of living in a marginalised community. A Night at the Cathedral goes deeper, showing people what it is like to sleep rough within the safety of a HopeStreet building. “We hope that people will go on from our programs with a sense of compassion for those less fortunate. " says Adam Debenham, HopeStreet's educator. The organization also runs workshops and events for groups such as schools and business teams. These take place in Woolloomooloo
or they can come to you. 02 9358 2388. www.hopestreet.org.au.
TO‘OK’ IT A VERY STRONG PERSON TO STAND UP AND MAKE
NOISE ABOUT IT
Share the Dignity Orange Sky Laundry’s Lucas and Nic