Monday, June 11, 2007

Homeless Connect Day BRISBANE

Thursday was the best and most rewarding day I have ever spent ! Together with other members of Knitting for Brisbane's Needy, I went to Brisbane City Hall for the Homeless Connect Expo. I caught the train at 6.47 am - on a very cold and windy day (well, cold by Brisbane standards anyhow!)

Here's what I wrote to the group of my experiences:

Well ladies - we did ourselves proud today - everything that was on the tables - beanies, scarves , rugs etc went to a homeless person! For those that didn't go it was terrific day - the homeless people just kept coming and coming and coming - there are 10,000 in the Brisbane CBD alone!

There were hairdressers giving free haircuts or head shaves, there were places for free showers, then there were free clothes and shoes, and groceries, there were two ladies giving massages, there was aroma therapy, there was a podiatrist, there was a whole room at the town hall devoted to help and counselling, both spiritual and otherwise, there were hundreds of wonderful volunteers who went and found homeless people and brought them to the City Hall and helped them find clothing shoes etc to fit.

We, Karen, Dawnie dear,Susan and her wonderful Mum, Wendy (who kept me in fits all day) Sheila who should NOT be allowed to pilot her wheel chair alone in my humble opinion ROFLMAO, lovely Dianne, Cassie, Kylie, Margaret, Daphne, Bunty,oh, and me,we had such a good time! If I missed someone out please forgive me!

There was hot food laid on by the City Council for both the homeless people and for the all volunteers - including us - and coffee, tea, juice, filtered water, and food available all day.Every one of the people who came to our table for goodies was cheerful,polite, and not at all greedy - a few were quite shy and waited outsidewhile a volunteer scurried round finding beanies and scarves or a blanket for them.

One young man came in looking like nothing on earth, and went out with his head shaved, all clean and re-newed, with a black shirt, a lovely black suit, new shoes, and I tell you ladies, he was at least 6 inches taller when he left!!!!! Another man came and picked out some gifts for his 12 year old grand daughter, a poncho and some lovely pink hats and scarves.He was thrilled to be able to have a gift for her.

I found the cutest little baby boy and plonked a pretty soft beanie on his little head and was rewarded by the best smile!! Oh and a lovely Chinese girl came and sat with us and knitted what I thought was to be a thong - but it turned out to be a letter "T" - trust me!

Another girl came and knitted with us, she told us she learned to knit in prison - she wasn't very old. They both took needles with them and some wool.

We gained a few new members too I think - certainly some knitters came and chatted and took leaflets and our newsletters with them. And oh, yes, Sheila and her husband made a fantastic big sign to hang from the table front, and we each had a name tag on a lanyard which Sheila and her husband so kindlymade for us. And Karen you thought I was just yacking, knitting and laughing - but believe me ladies - I was taking it all in!! I am not as shallow and superficial as I appear at times.

One thing that was asked for that we didn't supply was - BALACLAVAS!!! So I shall be going through my patterns tonight - I know I have some balaclava patterns here somewhere!

Well I can't think of anything else that happened apart from a lot of laughs, a few really good jokes, some very kind comments from the organisers and volunteers and the people we aim to help - it was a very tired and happy bunch of KFBN - ers that went home today! Thanks to all the lovely people who knitted/crocheted all the over 300 items that went to a homeless person today.

You did good !!!!!!!With loveYvette

Karen, (pictured here, centre) the owner moderator of Knitting for Brisbane's Needy also wrote her impressions of the day - here is what Karen experienced:

I found when I got home I was emotionally drained but all in a good way! 12 members turned up, some from 8 am and the brekkie and welcome by theLord Mayor and other councillors, other members came at various times.2 of our members brought their mothers along as well, as there were 3 husbands, who wandered off and did their own thing, but came back occasionally.

We had over 300 items to give away to start with, but by the time members came, they all had more donations, so in all we probably had a great array of over 400 items. The doors "opened" at 9 am and from the word go, homeless (some with volunteers to help them choose things)started coming into the Hamilton Room where we were.

I had expected to hear some bad language, but all day I heard not one bad word, there was no aggressiveness. In fact, homeless people who didn't even know each other, were helping each other out to pick out clothes, telling them where something else was situated they might want to have a look at.Each and every one of them who came to us were so polite and so very grateful and lots commented on how "smart" we are to make things, and why "do you want to help someone like us?" (Was told by one of the organisers that there are, over 10,000, yes you read right, 10,000 homeless people in the area covered by the Brisbane City Council!!!! And it is getting worse as rental properties become scarcer and the rents rise out of the reach of a lot of people! I was blown away by that!Heard quite a few stories of how they became homeless etc. That was heartbreaking. There were all ages and genders of homeless from about 12 to a man well in his 80's, plus a husband and wife in their mid 70's. Quite a few homeless families, and many pregnant very young homeless girls!

I must add about one guy who came in, like most of them, head down, a bit embarrassed to be there, and all the rest of it. We gave him a beanie and he was very grateful and off he went. About an hour later I heard a voice say "How do I look now?" I looked up to see this well dressed gentleman, clean shaven, face and head (!), dressed in a beautiful suit, black shirt, shiny black shoes. He was all smiles, shoulders back, I thought, "who is the nice looking business man talking to me?" It ended up being the homeless man from before. He had had a shower, hair cut, shaved, volunteers had helped him find this suit (it looked very modern, almost brand new), a nice shirt to match, shoes, and as he told me quietly "even got new undies and socks!" He looked a million dollars and the difference in which he walked now with head up, shoulders back, ready to take on the world.

Then there was the baby about maybe 6 months old, who was with his mum,but really looking like the rest of the homeless, no smiles , head down etc. But Yvette went over to him and placed a beanie on his head, well immediately she was rewarded with this huge smile, his head went up, he started looking around. Just like he knew his circumstances and he too was so grateful to be helped!I could go on and on with various stories but shan't bore you all.

Besides giving out the beanies etc, another member and I went for a walk round the main auditorium and got lots of contacts for other organisations who would really appreciate donations of knitted/crocheted items including toys! Each and every person there on the day, volunteered their time! There were even "healthy exercises"being conducted, simple things like learing to skip,etc; entertainment; hot food, drinks all day, for homeless and volunteers alike! Different sporting personalities etc etc.

I think I speak on behalf of all of the Knitting for Brisbanes Needy who were there on the day when I say that it was one of, if not the most, rewarding experience I have ever had. Certainly makes you realise that really you have nothing to complain about if you can't get the latest designer handbag, or Plasma Tv, or whatever. We have a roof over our head, food in the cupboard (might not be what you feel like, but at least there is food), and a bed to sleep in.

The Lord Mayor said that they held the first Homeless Connect day last November and it was such a great success they decided to hold another and hoped to do a couple a year from now on! There is not much, if any, media coverage of the event before hand, and they don't want the "takers" coming along know the ones who hear they might be able to get things for free whether they need them or not!!

Anyway we all said we would definitely go to another one, and besides the knitting we sat and did on the day (well I didn't get much done),we all went home determined to do even more knitting/crocheting.

We also found out what the homeless were after, what things they liked the best....Beanies, dark colours for the men, especially maroon (that could be because of the state of origin next week!) Beanies/scarves in the colours of the indigenous, black, yellow and red.The females loved the feather type scarves and beanies, although we are told they are not suitable for homeless, they loved the "pretty" ones. Beanies, scarves and rugs in football (AFL and NRL colours).We were told only to take things for adults, but so many of them were after baby clothes, and clothing for children. Next time will definitely be taking that sort of thing along. Socks/slippers were in high demand as were balaclavas! Rugs of all sorts, but they like ones with fringes as well.They just loved the fact that all our things were NEW.

We learnt a valuable lesson too, next time we would have another sign saying "These items are FREE OF CHARGE ", as many of the homeless were asking us how much for a beanie etc! They couldn't believe it when we said, they are free!!! Then some of them couldn't make up their minds between a couple of items, so we said take them both, a few said "Really, you don't mind?", where as others were saying "No, I will just take one, someone else will need the other one". They were just so considerate of not just us, but also their fellow homeless.

OK I promise I will stop now! But in closing would like to say, if at any time any of you get the opportunity to attend something like this (apparently other city councils around Australia have seen the successof the Brisbane one and are talking about having something similiar) DO IT.

Go along, enjoy the absolute fantastic feeling it gives you, to see the homeless walk in, shuffling along etc, to all of a sudden, being smiling, happy, that people do care about them! Its a shame its only one day every so often, but even so, it all helps them! Also know that by being part of this group you really are making a difference with what you make with love and donate!

One item DOES make a difference, have seen that first hand! THANK YOU from the homeless!!From a very humble Karen

For those who are interested in becoming involved with Knitting for Brisbane's Needy (and you can live anywhere, not just Brisbane or Queensland) here is the link:


Donna said...

Wonderful work you are all doing Yvette. I can just feel the love and caring that goes into all of your hand made goodies and I know that they are appreciated by the people who recieve them.

Petpig said...

Thank you for the great story. I personally would love to hear more stories.
I knit and crochet many things for our Ronald McDonald House charities and never know who gets them. It is really nice to hear how happy these things can make someone. Bravo, to all who were involved. Blessings to you and yours.
Beth- USA

Knitcrazy said...

What wonderful work you all did..
Just reading about your day brought tears to my eyes...
How nice to see people helping other people who are less fortunate!!
Bless You All..

Love Penny

Sue H said...

Wow, that really brought a tear to my eye. What amazing stories, and how great that you could be a part of it all. congratulation to you and your group for taking part and knitting for these poor folk.
I'd love to see this sort of thing take off in other states too, wouldn't it be great for us all to be able to "make a difference".

Anonymous said...

you are the most caring person i know!God bless you and all the others that helped out that day.

Anonymous said...

WOW! You folks rock! How wonderful to read of this day you had. Congratulations to you all on such a wonderful exhibition of the human spirit at it's best. (((hugs)))