Coats for the Homeless distribution underway – stories from the streets
With the onset of the cold and wet winter weather, the 2022 Coats for the Homeless distribution is underway nationwide. Once again Hygiene Packs are also being offered to the homeless by our volunteers as Covid-19 infections in Australia continue to soar.
“It is good to be back on the streets of Melbourne caring for the marginalised that call the streets home. There were lots of new friends to be made and some reacquainting ourselves with some old regulars who had missed the banter and company that comes with the Coats from the Order of Malta’ explained National Hospitaller, John Murphy.
The stories that the Order of Malta members and volunteers hear from the homeless on the streets are always personal and unique.
There is always a range of different reasons why people find themselves alone and without a roof over their head. The beauty of the Coats for the Homeless program is not always the coats themselves, but rather the opportunity for members of the Order to personally connect with the lonely and marginalised.
Last week, National Hospitaller John Murphy met two gentleman that had different stories but much in common.
Ben came from India 10 years ago from India without family and had struggled to integrate into society and hold a regular job. He ‘couch surfed’ when he could and had no fixed address.
Sam was a refugee from Lebanon and has struggled with major health issues. His regular seizures see him spend much of his time in hospital or more recently you can often find him with Ben travelling on public transport during the day in the outer suburbs to ensure they stay away trouble and remain inconspicuous.
Talking to the gentlemen about their reasons for being in the city on this cold night and their answer surprised. “We don’t need the food but we need the company. People need people and we find speaking to people like yourselves who come out here with warm clothing and food, we interact with you and feel human once again”.
Order of Malta volunteers distributing Coats for the Homeless in Melbourne were accompanied by our Community Hub coordinator Anna Vandierendonck from Australian Catholic University (ACU), who is currently researching the needs of in the community as part of the ACU and Order of Malta partnership to assist those experiencing disadvantage in the community. She welcomed the opportunity to rub shoulders with members as well as meet and chat with the homeless we serve.
The focus of the Community Hub is to provide opportunities for members of the Order as well as ACU staff and students to work together in serving those in need. Initial steps for the program will include community consultation identifying gaps in service provisions for the marginalised in the local area.