Giving a helping hand

Gailan O’Connell, Debbie Player, Tanya Cairns and Fran De Gaye in their well-stocked room of gifts for the homeless.
Gailan O’Connell, Debbie Player, Tanya Cairns and Fran De Gaye in their well-stocked room of gifts for the homeless.

Merriwa resident Tanya Cairns started a Facebook group in May as a northern suburbs offshoot from a similar Perth group and called it H.A.N.D. (Homeless, At Risk, Needy and Disadvantaged).

It has grown to almost 500 members, and five women help Ms Cairns monitor it and collect gifts of clothing, toiletries, non-perishable food and bedding for homeless people.

They have taken the first steps to becoming an incorporated group, with Gailan O’Connell, from Clarkson, Sue Pan (Carramar), Sharon Wood (Alkimos), Fran De Gaye (Quinns Rocks) and Debbie Player (Morley) on the inaugural board.

Ms Cairns said the group created care packs from the gifts it received and distributed them to about 15 homeless people they knew of who sheltered around the northern suburbs.

‘It’s basically going to cover Two Rocks to Mullaloo and across to Midland,’ she said. ‘We’ve already got food runs in Joondalup.

‘We give them a pack which will have a sleeping bag in it, and a blanket and a pillow if they want it.

‘They think their Christmases have come at once.’

Ms Cairns said the volunteers were in constant contact with local government and police, and let them know where and when they were delivering gifts.

She said they had also been preparing emergency relief hampers for families such as the Viljoens, whose Mindarie rental burnt down last month, and a Carine family of 10 who escaped a house fire last week.

Any excess supplies are given to local charities and the group also gives out a list of organisations that provide support, including the Spiers Centre, Salvation Army, Uniting Care, local governments, churches and food outlets that offer suspended coffees or meals.

Ms Cairns said they had been overwhelmed by people’s generosity and there was little space to move between shelves stacked with gifts in her house.

As a result, the group is looking for alternative storage, such as a self-storage unit, and gifts of plastic boxes and shelving units to divide items.

‘We need a storage area, that’s what is holding us back,’ she said. ‘We are looking for a business or someone in the public who can help with storage.’

To help the HAND group, email handnor@gmail.com.