“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home” – Edith Sitwel
The rain trickles through the branches he lays under, each drop leaving him shivering more than the last.
He clings to his mattress in despair, tugging at the raggedy doona he’s dragged around for the past six months in one last attempt of securing shelter.
Panicked, he gathers his few belongings and runs to the adjacent tree, but doesn’t notice the mud awaiting him as he falls to the ground.
He shuts his eyes to escape reality for a moment, fearing for his safety, never in his life has he felt so alone.
But you – you read his story in your warm home, away from the harsh winds, and without the fear of whether you’ll make it through the night.
The winter may be a burden, but the roof over your head and hot tea in your hand ensure your hope is intact.
Recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show that a total 5,985 South Australians will experience homelessness tonight.
Someone is considered to be homeless when they do not have suitable accommodation, or their living arrangements are dwelling, have no tenure or are out of their control.
Many Australians go through life unable to enjoy the basic social justices they deserve, including eating, drinking, accessing healthcare services and most of all, having somewhere to live.
Not only does homelessness deny an individual of their basic human rights, it contributes to deep and persistent disadvantages in everyday life.
CEO of Homelessness Australia, Glenda Stevens, believes homelessness is a major issue in our nation which can no longer be overlooked.
“People are more likely to experience homelessness in their lifetime than diabetes, asthma or arthritis,” Gleeson says.
“In fact, the 1 in 8 people experiencing homelessness is closer to the 1 in 6 people who will experience depression.
“Just because we have heard it before, does not mean we can ignore homelessness, we urge the government to see investment in homelessness services as essential.
“We need action, social injustice won’t end until we all stand up with those who don’t possess the social and economic resources to stand alone.”
Each morning in the City of Adelaide’s bustling Hutt Street, a group of men and women patiently huddle together in a tight circle.
The crisp breeze sweeps through as one woman clasps her hands together, blowing warm air into her palms while watching her pet dog wander.
Unbeknown to the public, the group waits for the doors of the Hutt Street Centre to open so they are able to eat that day.
The Hutt Street Centre is located in the heart of south-eastern Adelaide, and acts as a frontline agency for homeless and vulnerable people.
Development and Partnerships Manager at Hutt Street Centre, Danielle Bayard, notes how homelessness in Adelaide has risen to a large extent.
“We’re seeing a lot more people, within the last few years, we’ve gone from seeing 45 new people to homelessness a month up to around 80 people,” Ms. Bayard says.
“It’s a real strain on resources and our service capacity, there seems to be a lot of younger homeless around at the moment.
“It’s interesting because the demographics change quickly, one year we might see a lot of older homeless clients, the next year it might be at the other end of the spectrum, it’s definitely increased.”
Although the number of people experiencing homelessness in Adelaide has risen, Ms. Bayard maintains that both the Hutt Street Centre’s clients and employees remain optimistic.
“There’s a lot of stereotypes around homelessness, our clients feel that every day, that’s something we work hard on breaking down,” Ms. Bayard says.
“Part of our community education programs are around educating school students and community groups about homelessness and about how people do end up homeless.
“It’s about breaking down that barrier, we don’t want our clients to lose hope as their persistence is what keeps them going.
“Things like our winter appeals and Jodie and Soda’s ‘Undie Privileged’ Campaign, they show us that the public hasn’t given up hope in helping those experiencing homelessness, either.
“That campaign was very successful, there was about 5,000 pairs that came in, we probably got enough jocks and socks for the next two years, it restored everyone’s faith.”
Entering the Hutt Street Centre seems to be a paradox; despite their situation, the clients buzz around the building with genuine smiles on their face.
Laughter echoes from recreation area, where three men happily recline on a sofa, watching the 1994 classic comedy, ‘Dumb and Dumber’.
Two women make their way from the laundry room carrying baskets of freshly washed clothes; it’s clear a community has formed among the centre’s clients.
The bright orange and light blue décor featured in the dining area signify a safe place for clients to come in and have a meal.
Those working in the kitchen pace up and down preparing the day’s lunch menu, chicken schnitzel with salad for mains and watermelon for dessert.
Kitchen service is just one of the many areas the devoted volunteers at the Hutt Street Centre are able to assist with, which is exactly what Ros does each Thursday.
“The clients here are lovely, seeing them benefitting from these services is the best part of volunteering,” Ros says.
“People need to come along here and have a look at how it works, spread the word about the good work being done, I talk about my volunteering just about everywhere I go.
“The clients are always so happy and positive, I think that’s so important and helps them make it through.”
Optimism is essential for the 105,000 Australians, including families with young children, who are homeless on any given night.
Current Hutt Street Centre volunteer, Kim, is a living embodiment of how hope during a tough situation such as homelessness is crucial.
“I heard about the centre through a friend while I lived in a boarding house, I was going through a rough time living there,” Kim says.
“I was only receiving $150 a week which went nowhere other than paying for basic accommodation and food, I wasn’t saving and therefore wasn’t moving forward.
“Life before the centre definitely was not easy, actually it was quite depressing and I had almost given up.
“I was in a hole that I couldn’t get out of and each day the hole got bigger and bigger, I felt trapped.
“I came here and it was great help, I got a case manager who helped me with my accommodation and finances.
“The Hutt Street Centre gave me hope, gave me confidence, you need that especially when you’re in a tough situation like I was, that’s definitely what got me through.
“I work in the kitchen every Thursday and Friday from 11am to 1 pm, I also do a bit of work in the day centre as well helping people find their way around the place.
“I’ve been here for four years now getting my life back on track and I’m so happy.”
If people experiencing homelessness are aware of the services that are available to them, the chances of them breaking out of their continuing cycle are greater.
Hope and faith – that’s all vulnerable people need; it’s an idea every Australian needs to promote in order to put an end to homelessness, and help give people a warm bed at night. Donate whenever and however you can, every little bit is appreciated.