Burnie-Wynyard’s ‘brilliant’ response to homeless help request

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Burnie-Wynyard’s ‘brilliant’ response to homeless help request

Parishes around Tasmania have been asked to engage with homelessness. 

One parish that has already become involved in tackling homelessness is Burnie-Wynyard Parish in North West Tasmania.

For Homelessness Week in August, Jo Benson, the team leader of CatholicCare's Housing Connect Support in the North West, was asked to come up with ideas to fill gaps in service to the homeless.

With her co-worker Karen, she realised that there was a need to provide hygiene products and toiletries for men.

“We get the 'Share the Dignity' bags for women with personal items in them, but there is never anything for men. So we thought that we needed to try and seek donations from the community of personal items,” Jo said.

“I thought we could reach out to the local parish here at Burnie as I know they often do drives for other sorts of initiatives.”

Large donation tubs were left at each church in the parish for several weeks, with notices put in the parish bulletin and announcements at Masses.

Parish Secretary Rowena Comp says that the response by parishioners was “brilliant” and “overwhelming”.

She said that “people just filled them up”.

“I was taking huge bagfuls up to Jo, and poor Jo – her eyes popped out of her head, she was overwhelmed!”

Each week the collected items were brought to CatholicCare where waterproof drawstring bags were filled with items like deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes and shaving gel – enough to last about a month.

“We did about 40 bags but we also have a cupboard full of leftovers,” Jo said.

Rowena believes a providential coincidence may have contributed to the abundance of items.

“One of the largest supermarkets was having a half-price sale on a lot of toiletries, so we got double what we would have.”

She says the initiative was a very positive thing for the parish to be involved in.

“We are also very involved with St Vincent de Paul and they have the women's dignity bags as well that we've supported in the past, and we also have a weekly collection of food items for St Vincent de Paul, and those baskets are in all of the churches and they are taken up with the offertory. We've got a very generous parish, very supportive.”

The bags were distributed at a City Mission lunch with Jo reporting that the men who received them were “very grateful”.

“They thought they were excellent,” she said.

Image: Lunch guest Michael with City Mission worker Gail and one of the many men’s bags created with donations from Burnie-Wynyard Parish.