Lending a hand to the homeless this Christmas
DURING the season of giving, we practise generosity and compassion, but there's also much to be gained from the practice of listening to others... especially those we want to help.
Tweed-based Agape Outreach's Theresa Mitchell, who is organising a Christmas party for about 250 of our region's homeless population, said the "humbleness” of homeless people was a gift they gave to society every day.
"Homeless people are the most beautiful people in the world, and they're so humble,” Ms Mitchell said.
"That humbleness is such a gift that they're passing on. Homelessness can happen to anybody, and while it can be something small that puts you there, it can also be something big.”
Ms Mitchell said major life changes or tragic events such as car accidents, the death of a child, or a relationship breakdown could contribute to depression and the disruption or disintegration of a person's life.
"Everybody reacts in different ways and society has become very insular,” she said.
"We don't necessarily associate with our neighbours any more and a lot of people don't have families nearby.”
Ms Mitchell said family and social circumstances often dictated how homeless people spent Christmas.
"Some families don't know that a member of their family is homeless, and for a lot of people Christmas is depressing.
"For Christmas, I'd like to give all homeless people a place to live - a housing development. I'd like to be able to give people a home.”
The Agape Outreach Christmas Party will be held from 4pm on December 20 and will include dinner at 6pm in Coolangatta's beachside park on Marine Pde, opposite George's Paragon restaurant.
Ms Mitchell, who has been dedicated to helping the homeless for nine years, said she was "overwhelmed” by the support she'd received for this year's event, however she was still seeking donations from local businesses and restaurants.
There will be entertainment, a visit from Santa, a jumping castle, a table of free clothing, hot coffee, free hair cuts and beauty services, Christmas dinner and a small gift for everyone who attends.
"We're looking for donations for several of the bigger items that we will otherwise have to buy, including a generator for the jumping castle, plus leg hams, turkey rolls and even baked potatoes - we need a lot of baked potatoes to feed 250 people.”
Ms Mitchell said she had noticed a growth in the numbers of homeless people while operating the service's Meals on the Street program over the past few years.
"About four years ago, I was serving 35 people on the street and now I'm serving 65 people.”
Trauma, mental illness, domestic violence and unaffordable housing all contributed to rising rates of homelessness, and it affected "everybody, from babies up the aged”, she said.
"Homelessness affects seniors, singles, elderly, even business owners and CEOs.
"If people lose their job, there's more chance they'll end up homeless or close to it.”
Ms Mitchell said business owners could become stressed, and the stress was then reflected in their actions and lives. She said depression could be a factor and relationships often suffered devastating blows.
She said the results could be life-changing, with people losing their families and houses.
"People give up hope when they go through that type of stuff. It becomes a shame factor and it goes from there, and it becomes harder and harder to turn people around.”
Agape Outreach provides budgeting classes, life coaching classes, basic cooking skills, and barista courses to help people reboot their lives.
"When people are in a group environment and feel a sense of belonging, they feel somebody loves them and that somebody cares, and that brings back hope.
"It's often so overlooked, but that sense of belonging is something everybody is looking for.
- Anyone wishing to donate or support the Christmas event can contact Ms Mitchell on 0414 693 670 or email@example.com.
- To register for a child's present from Santa, call 0414 693 670.