17 April 2024

Resting easier: Sleep kits symbolise care on Youth Homelessness Matters Day

| Kellie O'Brien
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woman with sleep kits for the homeless

A Southern Youth and Family Services staff member with sleep kit donations from Sheridan Shellharbour. Photo: Supplied.

As Australia marks Youth Homelessness Matters Day today (17 April), more than 1500 sleep kits by Sheridan Shellharbour have been donated since 2019 to young people in the Illawarra without a safe place to call home, showing those in need that someone cares.

Through the year-round SleepSafe initiative, Sheridan stores nationally raise funds for sleep kits to be donated to homelessness services in their regions to help young people feel supported and cared for, with Southern Youth and Family Services one of the Illawarra’s recipients.

A collaborative initiative between StreetSmart and Sheridan, SleepSafe provides a sheet set, pillowcase and towel that give dignity and a safer, more comfortable night’s rest to those facing homelessness.

Southern Youth and Family Services chief executive officer Narelle Clay said the generous donation meant a great deal to young people in the region.

“It means young people who are just about to set up on their own, or have had poor housing conditions or homelessness, can have a nice pack to start with,” Narelle said.

“It actually makes a huge difference to people who are experiencing great difficulty who can’t afford such items to receive them, but also just to know that other people care.

“It’s kind of interesting how lonely and isolated you can feel when you don’t have somewhere to live, even if you’ve got support people around you.

“Knowing that a company is generous, makes a difference and wants them to have nice things is really quite uplifting for them.”

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Narelle said it also meant a lot to the not-for-profit community agency to know Sheridan Shellharbour understood the extent of homelessness in the area and the work it was doing.

“Funding is short, so we often don’t have enough money to be able to help set up the young people in their own independent living situations,” she said.

“It’s not a small donation – linen and sleeping items actually cost quite a lot of money these days.

“With the cost of living, they’re the things that people just can’t afford.”

Narelle said more broadly, the region still needed more affordable and appropriately built youth housing to address homelessness.

“The property we built in Warilla that opened last July is a milestone property,” she said.

“It’s got 20 units and the young people who’ve moved in are flourishing – they’re paying the rent, they’re studying, they’re managing their relationships.

“I could open one of those every month, we’re that short of affordable and social housing.”

Narelle said another need was for people to understand the extent of the problem, and to support governments in the allocation of funding for homeless people and not to judge them.

“We don’t really know … what has led to that homelessness, and there’s often some very significant life situations that people haven’t been able to control themselves.”

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She said the business community had been generous in its sponsorship of everything from the cost of education to donating computers and mobile phones over the years, knowing it was going directly to those in the region.

“We’re a local charity that deals with local young people and local families and we do a good job with some really good outcomes that come from it,” she said.

More than $2.2 million has been raised through Sheridan’s in-store and online donations, with SleepSafe partnering with more than 60 dedicated youth services across Australia.

Since 2019, the initiative has distributed more than 15,000 kits to community partners supporting young people facing homelessness.

Tonight, more than 28,000 young people will be without a safe place to call home, with young people making up 23 per cent of Australia’s homeless population.

StreetSmart Australia CEO Geoff Hills said: “When you’ve experienced housing insecurity and homelessness, often without the guidance and support of a parent, the comfort of a clean towel and sheets of your own helps bring a sense of safety and self-worth.”

To donate, visit StreetSmart Australia.

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