Volunteers pack Great Hall to help the homeless

5 December 2013

More than 350 volunteers came together this week to help the Sydney Nursing School make a difference in the lives of Sydney's homeless.

Volunteers worked in teams in the Great Hall to assemble almost 5500 care packs containing essential items for ongoing health, hygiene and comfort, including soap, antiseptic, shampoo and toothpaste.

The event was opened by Professor Jill White, Dean of Sydney Nursing School, who paid tribute to the overwhelming support and willingness of staff, alumni and friends to give their "time, energy and capacity" to the cause.

"This is the time of year to embrace the sense of community at the University; to use our heads, hearts and hands to give back and do something really meaningful," she said.

Many of the care packs will be distributed to the homeless by the Matthew Talbot Hostel, an outreach centre facilitated by St Vincents de Paul Society that provides accommodation and specialised support to some of the 19,000 people in the Sydney area who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

The hostel sleeps approximately 100 people every night, and provides an average of 650 meals per day.

Guest speaker Matthew Cleary, St Vincent de Paul Society executive officer, said often people prioritise food and shelter over their general health. Thanking participants for their involvement, he said that the packs would not only assist with patrons' ongoing health once they leave the centre, but were a way of supporting their self esteem and saying "we value you".

Events such as these were also essential in raising awareness of issues surrounding homelessness, said Mr Cleary.

He said that of the 28,000 homeless people in NSW, 13 percent are children, 17 percent are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, 40 percent are female and 70 percent are under the age of 44. He encouraged participants to share some these little-known facts and figures about "the real face of homelessness" with their friends and families.

This is the third annual event of its kind hosted by the Sydney Nursing School, but is the first in support of a local community cause. In their previous appeals, held in 2011 and 2012, volunteers assembled thousands of birthing kits for the women of Africa and Papua New Guinea.