Untidy, unmotivated, aggressive and alcoholic, these are some of the stereotypes the general public have about homeless people. Therefore, people would avoid the homeless whenever they encounter them on the street. The truth is, nobody wants to be homeless and the homeless have their own sad stories. When the weather is cold, they need someone to reach out to them and give them warmth.
Sending warmth to the needy amid a cold winter day
In cold and humid weather, it is important for people who sleep on the streets to have enough warm clothing. It is winter season in the southern hemisphere at this time of the year. 22 years since its establishment in Perth, this is the first time Tzu Chi Perth volunteers took to the streets to hand out blankets to the homeless.
To fulfil the task, the volunteers conducted assessments in groups before the distribution in order to learn more about the actual needs of the homeless. During the assessment, the volunteers bumped into other charitable organizations that provided aid materials on the street. Thanks to the sharing by the volunteers, Tzu Chi volunteers managed to contact a staff of City of Perth, Alicia who oversees aid distribution on the street.
From their conversation with Alicia, Tzu Chi volunteers learned that the aid distribution for the homeless is led by the town council, which has called on various charities to set Moore Street as the distribution zone. Besides providing cooked food to the homeless every day, there is also a mobile clinic every Tuesday to keep their health in check. Other services such as laundry services and mobile bathrooms are also provided for the homeless. During aid distributions, police are stationed nearby to maintain the order at the distribution site and to protect everyone’s safety.
With this information, the volunteers began to think hard on getting the most suitable aid materials and services for the homeless as they want to avoid wastage. The volunteer thought about the urgent need for the homeless to keep warm during cold weather. As the homeless move around without a permanent place to stay and all their belongings are kept in their bags, they do not have enough materials to keep warm. Volunteers have also considered the importance of keeping the aid material convenient to bring along, and therefore, the final decision was to give away blankets.
The eco-friendly blankets were kept in a backpack to make it easy for the homeless to bring it with them. The size, weight, storage and materials are good and just right for the homeless. Alicia exclaimed, "It's perfect and the colour is beautiful! It is also good for the environment as it is upcycled from recycled materials. I like the logo embroidered on the blanket too, so that we know who the donor is.
Taking initiative to care for the homeless
After the distribution plan was finalized, volunteers proceeded to distribute blankets to the homeless on Moore Street. Volunteer Xiao Wei Fang had the same thought about homeless people as most people do. However, she overcame her concerns and decided to volunteer in the aid distribution activity after she heard that Tzu Chi branch in Perth had decided to distribute blankets to the homeless. She said, "Having gone through this charity distribution, I realized that the homeless people are not that scary, and they weren’t noisy or anything. In fact, they are just like us.”
"I hope they will find a place to settle down soon, so that they won't have to wander on the street anymore," said Xiao who had participated in the entire aid distribution process since the assessment stage. Although handing out blankets may not be able to tremendously improve their life, through such acts of caring, it gives them a little warmth at heart. A small gesture like this lets the homeless know that there are people who care for them, and there is still hope in life.
Volunteer Li Xiao Jing on the other hand, found out about the untold bitterness and reasons why the homeless ended up as homeless, after interacting with them. "When we offered to help them, they felt very gratified, because they dare not interact with people. Yet, we took the initiative to care for them and that made them feel respected."
The warmth of love can melt ice and overcome distances between people. As the cold winter in the southern hemisphere gradually ends and spring is approaching, every little thing that happened at the distribution site on Moore Street, be it a hot meal, a cup of hot drink, a piece of clothing, a blanket, or a hot bath are all telling the story of love, warmth and understanding.