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6 Ways to Help Out During Homelessness Week Despite COVID-19

It’s the dead of winter and fears of a coronavirus second wave are running high, but while many of us have our homes to retreat back to, one in every 200 Australians does not.

Homelessness may not be at the forefront of our minds but it’s a strikingly prevalent issue that’s often overlooked. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, there was already an overwhelming demand for support services, programs, food banks, and shelters and a need for more volunteers or donations.

Add to the picture social distancing restrictions, job loss and a lockdown, and the general outcome is less help at a time when an increasing number of Australians need it the most. That was just during the beginning of the pandemic. With the unemployment rate already sitting at 7.4% – its highest level since 1998 – the number of Australians teetering on the brink of homelessness could continue to rise drastically.

With Homelessness Week coming up this August 2nd until the 8th, it’s crucial we remain aware of how this issue is affecting our fellow Australians and the things we can do to help out. While donation centres are asking the public to refrain from donating food items, and are seeking volunteers, if you’re unable to commit your time, there are other fast and easy ways you can assist those in need now, during and even after Homelessness Week has passed:

1. Make a donation

Donate money to charities or not-for-profit organisations like Mission Australia, Habitat for Humanity, St Vinnies, Red Cross, Food Bank Australia or the Salvation Army. Your donation doesn’t have to be a large amount and every cent counts, but if this isn’t a viable option for you, you can also consider helping out in the ways below.

2. Don’t panic buy!

We might not think it affects the homeless, but many not-for-profits use the donations they receive to buy necessities and distribute them to those that ask for it in their centres. If the shelves are empty that means you’re not getting the necessities you need to stay safe and neither are those who aren’t able to afford or access it elsewhere.

3. Donate hygiene, medical or cleaning supplies

Living on streets, makeshift shelters or in overcrowded dwellings, most homeless people have little access to the basic hygiene items needed to keep themselves safe from the virus. Donating something as simple as a bar of soap, sanitiser, tissues or cleaning supplies could help protect them without costing you too much.

4. Declutter… then donate

Stuck at home with extra time on our hands, a lot of people have been focusing on ways they can improve their living spaces, declutter or throw things away. However, whether it’s old blankets, clothes or shoes, anything in good condition can always be donated to your local charity. By productively cleaning out your home you’ll also be helping those in need stay warm, helping to prevent them from getting sick during Australia’s winter season.

5. Show your support (online)

With social distancing measures still in place, now is the time to show support for Australian homelessness online. You can sign pledges and petitions, ask the Government to help out or simply raise awareness for the issue by sharing statistics, statements or hashtags (#HW2020) on social media. The more people that are exposed to the message, the more chances that someone can lend a helping hand in various ways!

6. Support businesses and organisations that help out those in need

Not-for-profits aside, there are other businesses that offer their customers services that lend a helping hand to others. While homelessness rises, there are also still people looking to leave the rental market and buy their first home. Researching your options and going through brokers like those at Benevolence Financial Group (where up to half of their commission gets donated towards building a home for those in need), is another way you can help tackle the issue of homelessness in Australia.

While the ways you can help out are currently limited during this pandemic, no action is insignificant or too small in a situation like this. Whether it’s your time, effort, money or a product, every action counts. One in every 200 Australians is experiencing homelessness, but that means there are 199 other people that are available to help. Can you be one of them?

Samuel Philipos is the founder and principal mortgage broker of Benevolence Financial Group, a leading social enterprise mortgage brokerage firm specializing in home loans with a purpose, where 50% of profits made are invested to build affordable housing for families in need in their Home for Home Initiative. Samuel is an ex-banker, a 2020 finalist in the Australian Broking Awards, and is supported by Macquarie University Incubator.

Jay Boolkin
Jay Boolkin

I'm passionate about positive social change and the power of social entrepreneurship to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems. I believe that for-purpose business models can become part of the mainstream and I am enthusiastic about advocating for business models that are genuinely built around a social or environmental mission.

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