15 August 2023

Bank staff pitch in to help Homeless Hub continue to meet surging demand

| Jen White
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Three people sorting donated clothes and manchester

Commonwealth Bank executive staff lend a hand sorting donations at the Wollongong Homeless Hub. Photos: Jen White.

When the words bank and homeless are used together in a sentence it’s often about bad news, but this week in Unanderra the combination was all good.

About 30 Commonwealth Bank executives from around Australia took time out from a Wollongong leadership conference to lend a hand at the Wollongong Homeless Hub.

The Hub’s chief executive officer Mandy Booker was grateful for the help at a time when demand for the service is at an all-time high.

“I’ve been here for 10 years and it’s the worst I’ve seen it,” she said.

“Even people on dual incomes can’t make ends meet and they’re frightened.”

Commonwealth Bank Illawarra business manager Phil Alcock said whenever the leadership team met in a regional area, it spent time helping out in the community. Phil said as the team was meeting during National Homelessness Week (7-13 August), the Homeless Hub was a natural choice.

READ ALSO Region’s housing crisis ‘horrendous’, few options for key workers on low incomes

“It’s definitely an eye-opener,” he said. ”You can read all the statistics about homelessness but when you see it, and when you see the passion of people like Mandy, you realise it’s really tough.”

The bank staff were put to work packing food and toiletry bags, as well as sorting through piles of donated clothes and linen.

Mandy said these items were in huge demand and any donations from the community were welcome, especially cash and food.

“We’re funded for about 600 people but at the moment we’re seeing closer to 3000,” she said.

New data released on Friday reveals the waitlist for priority social housing has doubled in less than a decade.

The Community Housing Industry Association NSW (CHIA NSW) has called for urgent investment in social and affordable housing to address the growing housing crisis.

CEO Mark Degotardi said the figures revealed the demand for priority housing in NSW increased by 1000 to 7573 in the past 12 months, forcing the state’s most vulnerable to survive in precarious living situations while they waited.

“The explosion in the numbers of households on the priority housing waitlist is a human catastrophe, with NSW’s most vulnerable families in immediate crisis,” he said.

“We need urgent investment in social and affordable housing included in the upcoming state budget as well as a plan for the future.

“The scale of this crisis means that all levels of government must develop an urgent and coordinated response.”

Mandy is adamant that now is the time for change.

READ ALSO Disadvantaged youth get a fresh start with new multi-million-dollar social housing development

“It’s challenging but now is the time for us to pivot and decide what kind of a community and future we want for our country,” she said.

“It provides a chance for us to say, OK, this is how we have been doing it and it’s not working.

“It’s going to take all of us, non-government, government and corporate Australia, to determine what it’s going to look like in the next 20-50 years.

“This is not the society we want.”

How your donations can help the Homeless Hub to assist people in need:

  • $20 – Woolworths food voucher
  • $25 – Cleaning packages for new clients
  • $30 – Petrol voucher to assist clients to drive to inspections
  • $40 – Two-person tent
  • $42 – Birth certificate
  • $63 – Monthly train pass to assist someone looking for housing
  • $70 – A hot, nutritious breakfast for about 80 people a week (breakfast includes eggs, sausage, porridge, toast, fruit, juice, coffee and tea)
  • $80 – Homeless street swag
  • $85 – A storage bin for homeless people to keep their belongings.

For more details on how you can help, phone 4228 0955 or visit the Homeless Hub website here.

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