Gold Coast Homeless Connect has launched the donation drive for its 11th annual event, set to help more than 1700 locals who have experienced or are at risk of homelessness.
With people asked to donate clothing, toiletries and non-perishable food and food vouchers ahead of the event on 1 August, Gold Coast Homeless Connect attendee Kathy Graham can attest to the life-changing value of these donations.
Just 10 months ago, Kathy was unemployed and living out of her car on the Gold Coast. With nowhere to wash her clothes, Kathy stumbled upon the Gold Coast Homeless Connect Facebook event while using some free public Wi-Fi, and thought she would head along to get some free washing done.
“I hadn’t always been homeless – I’d previously been living in a house with my husband, working full-time in childcare and had four much-loved children which we had conceived after many years of IVF,” Ms Graham said.
“But when my marriage broke down and custody battles became messy, I became very upset and fell into a dark place that I couldn’t seem to get out of, which led to unemployment and homelessness.
“Little did I know that attending the 2017 Gold Coast Homeless Connect event would truly change my life – because a clean set of clothes, a bra, and a fresh haircut, things many people take for granted, are also the source of much-needed confidence and optimism for someone in need.”
Kathy was greeted by Gold Coast Homeless Connect service provider, Support the Girls, and was offered a bra on arrival at the event. Several hours later, she left having spoken to someone about her situation for the first time in years, and had a new sense of hope for her future.
She now works full-time as a baker in Brisbane, and has a house and a beloved and suitably-named pet dog, Brioche.
Gold Coast Homeless Connect chairperson, Mona Nielsen, said that stories like Kathy’s were not uncommon.
“We provide a wide range of allied health and wellbeing services, as well as services to help people get a head start in housing or employment,” Mrs Nielsen said.
“Additionally, the donations received make a huge difference to our guests on the day – for many, food, clothing, shoes, toiletries, support information and someone to chat to with regard to their individual need, is what they need to take a step towards the life they are looking for.”
Long-term supporter of Gold Coast Homeless Connect, Horizon Housing CEO Jason Cubit said community events like these were a timely reminder of those at risk of homelessness, or experiencing homelessness in the region.
“According to the last Census, more than 1700 people are believed to be homeless on the Gold Coast, and over 220 of those are sleeping rough,” Mr Cubit said.
“Sometimes the smallest change in circumstances can have a domino effect in regards to circumstances that lead people to become homeless.
“We all take simple things like clothing, shoes, and toiletries for granted, but we’re asking the community to donate these at their nearest location over the next few months, as we are consistently seeing the positive change these donations can have on the lives of event attendees.”
Donations for the 11th annual Gold Coast Homeless Connect event are now open, and can be dropped off at collection points through major sponsors, including Horizon Housing, Metricon Stadium – home of the Gold Coast Suns, and ABC Gold Coast until 1 August.