“What I need is access to basics. I want a toothbrush for free. I want socks when I need them. It was f**king cold last night. Do you hear what I’m saying? You talk about affordable housing. I want free accommodation. I want somewhere to live.”
These words echoed in a room full of not-for-profits, politicians and a handful of homeless people, spoken by a gutsy bloke at a Roundtable to End Homelessness back in June 2016.
Sitting in that audience as a representative of Essentials for Women, I knew that I had to make a difference for that bloke. I could get him a toothbrush if I rummaged through the EFW donations. Not the socks though.
I decided to have a quick chat to this guy after the forum finished.
“Mate, I have a small supply of toothbrushes and the like in our donations but not socks. How many pairs do you think you’d need?”
“One for every day of the week? Nah just kidding. Just a couple hey. We can’t access a shower every day and your feet end up smelling. Sometimes you want to wear two pairs of socks but you can’t ‘cause you need to keep one pair smelling alright.”
That night, I sent out a quick call on the EFW Facebook page and, in true Perth style, people responded generously. With only one drop off point and a week, EFW had over 65 pairs of socks for Tranby in the CBD.
When you drop off a haul of donations like that to a busy drop in centre in Perth CBD, you can almost feel like a rock star. People give you hugs. People stare in amazement. The love is tangible. That day I also dropped off a package for the guy who spoke out. It had a toothbrush and other essential toiletries, a note to say thanks for speaking up and, most importantly, a few pairs of socks.
Now fast forward to 18 months. I am standing at Perth Homeless Connect and a bloke approaches our EFW stand.“Hey I know you ladies. You gave me some socks once a while ago.”
It was rewarding to chat to him again. He still remembers getting that package. He was heard in a busy world. He got to know that he mattered.