Life can be tough on the streets

Michelle Dunlop and Ruth Marshall with a box of clothes for Perth’s homeless.
Michelle Dunlop and Ruth Marshall with a box of clothes for Perth’s homeless.

Tonight the weather is being kind � it�s a dry August night and unlike earlier in the week, the minimum should stay above 10C.

I�m with Henley Brook volunteers Michelle and Graham Dunlop, who have been helping the homeless community in the Perth CBD every Thursday night for the last seven years.

Ms Dunlop says the crowd will come early � nooks in the city are limited and most want to get their necessities and reserve a good spot for the night.

This is the plight of a portion of the 10,000 people experiencing homelessness in Western Australia.

Some might sleep on a friend�s couch and others in emergency accommodation, but for those who slip through the cracks, the street becomes their only option.

It�s for these people Michelle and Graham hit the streets each week.

It all started when a friend of Ms Dunlop invited her to help feed the homeless on a Tuesday night in the city. After that she decided she wanted to get more involved and started doing it herself.

�I�ve always been interested in helping the less fortunate,� she said.

�It�s good to know that two nights a week someone is taking care of them

In the beginning, the Dunlops took care of the food and warm clothing, but now with more volunteers on board to help with food, they can focus more on collecting sleeping bags and clothing.

Relying on donations, Ms Dunlop said this year her church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, had been her biggest contributor.

In the winter, sleeping bags are in high demand and there is never enough for everyone, it can be hard to see some who leave empty handed.

Ms Dunlop said she could see a sense of community in the people who came; they keep tabs on each other when one of them hasn�t come for awhile.

�They look out for each other and pass up on a sleeping bag to someone who needs it more,� she said.

Ms Dunlop said that a helping hand can go a long way to getting these people back on their feet.

�One time we met a guy who didn�t have any glasses and my husband took his glasses off and gave them to him, it opened up his world,� she said.

This man then went to the library, started reading, worked towards getting his licence and even landed a job.

When she first started working with the homeless, she offered a couple of the men some part time work at her company�s warehouse, among one of them was Frank Macintosh.

Since then he has stayed on to work for them as security, and lives in an apartment next to their warehouse with his two dogs.

Anglicare WA CEO, Ian Carter said homelessness affected all sectors of society.

�This is an issue that as a community, we can no longer continue to ignore,� he said.

�There are many factors that can contribute to families and individuals becoming homeless or at risk of becoming homeless,� he said.

Community Newspaper Group is seeking donations of socks and underwear suitable to distribute to men, women and children of all ages and sizes as part of its Sox n Jox campaign.

Drop boxes are in all offices until the end of the week.