The need is real and it is getting bigger.
Cronulla’s Matt Harward knows his stuff when he talks about the critical support required in the region to combat homelessness.
The founder of One Meal – It Makes a Difference is putting the pedal to the metal for Homelessness Week (August 6-12).
‘Ending homelessness together’ is the theme this year, and this is proving to be the way forward for a community working in partnership at his volunteer-run service.
One Meal provides home-cooked food each Sunday to people in need in Sutherland Shire.
Mr Haward, the 2018 Sutherland Shire Citizen of the Year, says the service has grown to support more people in the area including victims of domestic violence, single mothers, the elderly and children.
“We routinely feed over 35 patrons – on occasion more than 45,” he said.
“Most of them are middle-aged, but we also help families who may not be homeless, but are struggling financially.”
His current goal as part of Homelessness Week is to raise money to buy a new food van, to help expand the service.
“Right now we run service out of a beat up old Ford panel van, and it’s on it’s last legs. It’s 25 years old and has served us well but it’s in need of replacement,” he said.
“We’re looking to raise $25,000, which should be enough to buy and set up a reliable van.”
He says while the service is fortunate to get support from businesses including Shire Foods, Tradies, Grind Espresso, Highfields Caringbah, Bunnings Caringbah and AllStar Property Group, recent car trouble has given rise to as funding shortfall.
“We are hoping that the community might get behind us and help get us into a suitable second hand vehicle,” he said.
“A new van will keep us on the road for many years to come and hopefully even allow us to set up a second weekly service.
“Homelessness is a big problem in the Royal National Park, and we’d like to do deliveries there.”
A recent survey conducted by Mission Australia revealed one in six young people have experienced homelessness.
This included those living in refuges, transitional accommodation and/or having spent time couch surfing.
There are more than 22 services provided by a range of non-profit and faith-based organisations in the Shire that provide support seven days a week.
Sutherland mayor Carmelo Pesce says the council is getting behind several of these generous organisations this week by attending food services.
“For some, the difference between having a home and buying food, or paying a bill, is a choice that must be made on a regular basis,” he said.
“In the shire we regularly have over 60 people sleeping rough and unknown numbers of people sleeping at friends’ houses, couch surfing, living for a short while in a caravan or a boarding house or discretely sleeping in their cars.”