By Kirra Grimes
TWO locals are calling on the community to help keep the homeless warm this winter.
Troy Bryan of Korumburra and Kylie Vines of Phillip Island are the brother-sister team behind the Facebook drive ‘Hoodies for the Homeless’ which, as its name suggests, invites the community to donate hooded jumpers to be distributed to homeless people.
Troy and Kylie first started the drive in 2013, when they were both living in Melbourne, and confronted by scenes of homelessness every day.
“I was just driving home from work one day and saw so many people on the streets and just thought we should do something about it,” Troy said.
“It started with a Facebook post and just went off from there.”
Their first effort was a huge success, with donations pouring in from hundreds of Facebook followers all over Australia, as well as the Collingwood Football Club and a Melbourne schoolteacher who knitted dozens of beanies.
Troy and Kylie put together 400 packs containing donated hoodies, scarves, socks and beanies, and with the help of Brother Doug Walsh from the St Vincent De Paul Society, distributed them to people living rough in the streets, parks and hostels of Melbourne.
It was an “eye-opening” experience, says Kylie, especially for her two teenage daughters who accompanied Troy, Kylie and Doug on the night time drop off run.
“It was a good experience for the kids,” said Kylie. “It put things in perspective in terms of them asking for new clothes all the time. It was very humbling for them to realise what people in need really look like.
“A lot of the time all they had was piece of cardboard to lie down on and hardly anything to keep them warm.”
Troy says the experience made him realise “there’s always a story behind homelessness”.
“We heard so many stories and so many different reasons behind people becoming homeless. A lot of the time it’s to do with the loss of a job, a family breakdown or domestic violence, yet there’s this stigma that they’re just ‘bums’ and they’re all on drugs.
“A lot of people think it’s a choice but it’s not. They’re all our brothers and sisters and we’ve got to help each other out.”
The last Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) census recorded a jump of 14,000 homeless people in Australia (14 per cent) in the five years to 2016, while St Vincent De Paul Victoria has experienced a dramatic rise of 40 per cent in the demand for welfare support over the past three years.
Now, with winter here, Troy and Kylie are once again putting the call out for donations, hoping that country folks snuggled up in front of their heaters at night will spare a thought for those shivering on city streets.
“We would like to get as many people as we can to donate,” Kylie said.
“People don’t have to go out and buy a brand new hoodie, they can just go through their wardrobes and find one they don’t wear anymore, as long as it’s clean and in reasonably good condition.”
“And it doesn’t just have to be hoodies,” Troy said.
“People can donate anything they think might be useful. And we might put couple of donation tins around town so we can buy any items we’re short on.”
Kylie and Troy plan to partner up with Vinnies again and do Melbourne drop offs, but they’re very keen to find out what the needs are locally and help out where they can.
If you’d like to get involved, contact Kylie and Troy via their Facebook group ‘Hoodies for the Homeless’ or drop your donations in to Country to Coast Homewares on Commercial Street in Korumburra (open Wednesday to Saturday).