We are now on the countdown to Brisbane's next Homeless Connect Day. Less than one week to go. Next Wednesday will be one of the most uplifting and exhausting days of the year.
It is again going to be held at the RNA Showgrounds, in Building 10, while the City Hall is being refurbished. We will be one of many organisations and community groups that will be attending to work with those who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or without secure accommodation. As well as community groups and organisations, many individuals also give up their time to provide medical care, legal advice, assistance with finding accommodation, personal grooming and clothes both new and pre-loved.
I don't know about you, but 4 years ago, if you had asked me what your "typical homeless person" was like, I would have said:- Male, single, 18-40, probably with a drug or alcohol problem, and chooses to be homeless. In reality, this group make up a very small proportion of the homeless population. Only about 2% of people categorised as homeless are addicted to alcohol or drugs, and less than 1% would turn down accommodation if they were offered it. Of the 100,000 people estimated to be homeless in Australia today, 99,000 of them are crying out for a stable, permenant home. A large proportion of these are young families. I was shocked to see, at my first HCD, just how many babies and young children are unwittingly caught up in this problem.
Personal hygiene can also be an issue if you have no home, so we make up toiletry bags with donated items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap (individually wrapped for safety reasons), shampoo and conditioner. For legal reasons as well as safety, we may not give out razors.
One of the most challenging things about HCDs is convincing clients that our items are gifts, that they are free, there is no charge. It is hearbreaking to see someone skirting around our tables because they don't realise we give out these items for free. The look of shock that crosses someone's face when the realisation hits them, and then the look of wonder as that realisation sinks in, are what make it all worthwhile. Attending a HCD can be a harrowing experience, and usually many tears are shed during the day. However, that all fades into insignificance when you see the look of joy on a face that a moment ago was guarded and suspicious.
So if you are coming along next week, bring your hankies, and be prepared to be mentally exhausted by the time you go home. We expect to give out about 2,500 items between 09:00hrs and 14:00hrs. We also expect to have heard some sad stories. We hope to hear some stories that are uplifting and bring tears of joy instead of sadness. Afterwards, you will be much more likely to remember the joyous moments, rather than the sad.
Just for Bunty, here is the photo taken at the Beenleigh Knit and Natter Christmas Party 2008. (Our esteemed leader Karen is the one with her dress hitched up around her knickers!!!)