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Services Giving Dignity And Comfort To Australia's Homeless

Haircuts, clean clothes, a warm dry place to store our things -- these are creature comforts many of us take for granted, but for those living rough on the streets, even the simplest things are a luxury they can only dream of.

Homelessness Australia says there are over 105,000 people experiencing homelessness in this country; 1 in every 200 people. With those numbers based on 2011 census data, that number is expected to be even higher today.

Homeless shelters are full and government funding is stretched to the limit, so smaller services are popping up all the time to help meet the growing needs of Australia's homeless population. Meet a few special services trying to make a difference.


Sydney service The Help Locker, looking to launch in coming months, will offer homeless people a place to store their things. It seems incredibly simple, but think back to the last time you saw a person dragging their blankets and clothes through the city, or pushing a battered trolley full of their things, or hiding their possessions in a garden or in a corner, and you'll begin to realise how valuable such a service could be for people who have nowhere safe to leave their few possessions.

"About a year ago I saw a woman hiding a blanket in a park. It showed me that some people have lack of privacy, and I started thinking about what would generate some proud moments in their lives," managing director Tim Rigg told The Huffington Post Australia.

Rigg's plan would see banks of lockers installed in urban centres around the country, in a central location that would then act as a meeting place for homeless people to access other essential services; grooming, food drops and professional services such as paperwork, printing and CV writing to help them start getting their lives back on track.

"On top of the physical space to store possessions in, I hope it would give an element of pride, an emotional gift where people could feel they had ownership over a space. A lot of programs are very direct solutions to problems, I wanted this to be a bit of a lateral solution," he said.

"The lockers would be available to people for a period of time, and there would be twice daily check-ins with the homeless community."

Rigg said the venture was still securing permissions from various councils around the country, but hoped to have their first location established in Sydney's Surry Hills by June.

The Help Locker is still looking to make partnerships with public and private bodies to provide support to the homeless community. For more information, see their website.


Brisbane friends Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi made headlines last year when they launched their Orange Sky mobile laundry in Sydney. The service, with washers installed in the back of bright orange vans, bills itself as a "world first free mobile laundry," organisers saying they have washed over thousands of kilograms of laundry for Australia's homeless.

They say they have services operating in Brisbane, Sydney, the Gold Coast and two in Melbourne. Homeless people can bring their clothes to the van, with partnerships with other food trucks providing food while they wait. In the wake of the Lorne and Apollo Bay fires in Victoria, the van has also set up to help victims wash clothes they escaped their homes with.

Orange Sky Laundry has begun washing in the fire affected Lorne and Apollo Bay areas. From today our free mobile laundry...

Posted by Orange Sky Laundry on Saturday, 26 December 2015

The Orange Sky crews say they washed at least 53,000 kg of laundry in 2015, and already in 2016, claim to have washed over a tonne.


Many homeless people have been evicted from their homes, been forced to leave on account of family or domestic trouble, or simply fallen behind on their rent. They gather their possessions and pack a bag; but what if they have a pet? Many homeless people will have an animal with them, usually a dog, that is their trusty companion on the streets. With animals requiring health care just as much as humans, homeless people struggle to keep their pets healthy and well.

The Pets In The Park project tries to support them in this endeavour, running monthly pet health clinics through Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, giving vaccinations, flea treatment, worming treatment and basic medication. Free clinics also provide free de-sexing facilities, as well as pairing the pet's homeless owners with necessary social services.

"Although pet ownership greatly enriches the lives of those who are homeless, it also comes at a significant financial cost. Annual vaccinations, flea treatment, routine worming, and de-sexing and microchipping an animal costs hundreds of dollars," Pets In The Park says on their website.

Staffed by volunteer vets and vet nurses, the program has branched out from a Sydney service to other capital cities.


Getting clean and tidy is one of the most basic things someone can enjoy. A few haircut services have emerged around the country, with barbers donating their time and their tools to giving the homeless a cut and shave.

Advertising executive Stacey Bachelor has become known as the "bearded barber" for his weekend volunteer work in shaping up the city's homeless.

"I have just learnt that the smallest things make a change. The haircut's one thing, trimming a beard takes you 30 seconds... but they're cool guys, you know," Bachelor told the ABC in October.

"It is just sad that people don't see it that way sometimes. If they did, people would think very differently about the homeless guy in the street."

Another is Melbourne barber Nasir Sobhani, a professional barber who volunteers weekends with a crew of friends to give cuts to the city's homeless. Known as the "Streets Barber," he posts pictures and philosophy on his Instagram page with the motto "clean cut, clean start."

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