Shelterbags for Coast’s homeless

Four hundred rough sleepers on the Central Coast will soon be given a warm place to sleep, thanks to a project run by committee members from The Rotary Club of Terrigal.

The Shelterbags for the Homeless Project was started by Mary Crammond, David Boyd, Jill Hamilton, Lynne Wilson, Janet Millhouse, and Mark Reynolds.

It aims to provide people who are homeless with a Shelterbag – a light, durable, warm, waterproof, comfortable protective sleeping tent.

Shelterbags is a product of the not-for-profit organisation based out of Holland, the Sheltersuit Foundation, which was created by Dutch resident, Bas Timmers, after his friend’s father died of hypothermia on the streets of Holland in 2014.

Project Organiser, Mary Crammond, said the 400 bags imported from South Africa will hopefully arrive this July.

“We obtained a grant of $10,000 from Rotary Australia Benevolent Society which Terrigal Rotary matched,” Crammond said.

“We have raised funds in the local community and have had tremendous support from all the Bendigo Banks, Gittoes Real Estate, Country Women’s Association and other Rotary Clubs.”

Crammond was introduced to Shelterbags for the first time when visiting Terrigal’s twin Rotary Club in Cape Town in 2019.

It was only when COVID 19 hit that they realised the extent of homelessness in Australia.

“After researching Australian Homelessness for nine months, contacting outreach agencies to ascertain the need for protective sleepwear for the homeless, as well as assessing the sustainability of such a program, the project effectively commenced in January 2021,” Crammond said.

Homelessness continues to be an issue on the Central Coast as COVID-19, rising house prices, and a shortage of social housing, force more people onto the streets.

“The 2016 Statistics saw approximately 113,000 homeless in Australia, and NGOs tell us that the Central Coast has about 7000 of these people, with 1000 people sleeping rough any one night.

“Since COVID, we have more women over 50 on the streets, more victims of domestic abuse, and unemployed youth.

“We believe that every human being deserves a warm, dry and comfortable night’s sleep, preferably with a roof for shelter.

“Whilst not ideal, a Shelterbag at least will provide a warm, dry, and relatively comfortable (place), as well as a little dignity.”

The club is buying the bags from the Sheltersuit Foundation in South Africa as they are cheaper than using raw materials to make them here in Australia, making it more economical to import even taking into account shipping costs.

Once they arrive, the Shelterbags will be handed to NGOs who can distribute them, and also given out to the organisations which donated money to the project.

“Previously, Swags were donated by agencies to the homeless, but rough sleepers advise that Swags are not warm, plus are too heavy and cumbersome to be carried around,” Crammond said.

“Moreover, Shelterbags may help build a bridge and trust between agencies and the homeless, thereby providing an opportunity to explore future options for those less fortunate.”

Jacinta Counihan