Australia's invisible epidemic: How you can help the homeless this Winter

With the weather getting colder and Winter well and truly on the way, many of us are getting ready to spend cosy nights indoors.

When you’re spending cold nights curled up with a good book or some hot chocolate and a movie, it can be easy to forget that not everyone has a safe or warm place to sleep.

Every night in Australia, 116,000 people experience homelessness in what can be considered an almost invisible crisis.

While we do see people sleeping on the streets, for the most part the sheer extent of Australia’s homeless crisis is hidden.

This is because many of the homeless are sleeping on friends’ couches or living in cars, while others are staying in unstable short-term accommodation or in hostels and caravan parks.

Abuse, domestic violence, sudden job loss, drug and alcohol abuse, disability, the loss of a loved one and unemployment are just some of the reasons a person might find themselves homeless, and with COVID-19 causing many people to suddenly find themselves without a job, the problem is only expected to get worse.

When someone becomes homeless, the impacts it has on their physical and mental health, as well as threats to their personal safety, causes them to become extremely vulnerable.

They also risk becoming isolated from society as it becomes steadily more difficult to get back on their feet and apply for jobs when they have no fixed address or access to necessary amenities.

Thankfully we can do something about this by getting involved with various charities and organisations that are out on the ground helping those in need.

Mission Australia is one of those organisations, and not only do they help people find safe and affordable housing, as well as supporting disadvantaged families and children, but they also focus on early intervention programs to prevent at-risk people from becoming homeless in the first place.

Working on preventative measures alongside helping the homeless to find housing means that Mission Australia is simultaneously able to act as homeless prevention as well as a cure.

Inspired to get involved? Here are five ways you can help those experiencing homelessness, especially now that the Winter is settling in.

1: Donate your time.

Have a few spare hours during the week or on the weekends? Many charities run solely on volunteers to run soup kitchens, distribute care packages, take care of administration duties and to generally keep things going. There are many different kinds of volunteer opportunities so you are sure to find one that suits you and the time you are willing to give.

2: Donate goods.

Non-perishable food, clean clothing, bedding and sanitary items are just some of the things that are distributed to those in need.  Make sure to read the guidelines of the organisation you are supporting to ensure what you’re donating is what they are currently in need of the most.

3: Offer your skills.

Are you tech savvy? Can you drive a van? Perhaps you’re a great listener. Whatever skills you have, an organisation somewhere is in need of them. Everyone has something to offer, and your gifts can go a great way in helping those who are at their most vulnerable. 

4: Make a financial contribution.

Financial donations are definitely a helpful and greatly appreciated contribution, so if you can afford to donate funds it is a fantastic way of showing your support. This can be done anywhere at any time, making it convenient for those who are unable to donate their time to still make a difference.

5: Spread awareness.

Even something as simple as spreading awareness on the homeless crisis through a social media post or during a conversation can be enough to help spread the word and encourage others to help. We all have a voice so let’s be sure to use it in a positive and constructive way. 

Whether you choose to support homeless charities financially or by the many different ways you can volunteer your time, the kindness you show to someone who is likely at the lowest point in their life can go a long way in creating a positive difference that will stay with that person for the rest of their life.

If you are interested in supporting Mission Australia, $3 from every sale of our beautifully designed Poverty and Homelessness reusable cup goes towards helping Mission Australia continue their wonderful work. You can learn more by visiting https://causecups.com.au/products/homelessness-poverty.

If you would like to learn more about Mission Australia, please visit https://www.missionaustralia.com.au/.

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