EACH Wednesday night, in the car park of the Bendigo CBD Coles supermarket, people can be found with food, clothes and toiletries to hand out to those in need.
They are Bendigo Donations for the Homeless, a group of people who have come together to lend a hand to some of the city’s most vulnerable people.
The group collects donations from the community and then distributes them to anyone who might be in need.
As well as providing for material needs, they say they are also there to just have a chat to anyone who wants one, with a mental health nurse among their number.
“Some of us have been in that position as well, so we have a bit of an understanding of what it’s like,” Nick Abbott said.
The group started as some mates who began pooling whatever they could spare, but with time and increasing community exposure, they have begun taking donations from concerned residents, some of whom they say donate regularly.
Mr Abbott said they wanted to fill the gaps between services already available in Bendigo, so those in need were able to get a hot meal every night of the week.
He said many people were wary of seeking help and there were weeks when no one came to them.
“But we’ve got to be consistent in what we do, so when they do come, we’re ready,” Mr Abbott said.
The group says they have seen their work begin to make a difference in the lives of some individuals.
Nathan Lindrea said they had formed a relationship with one man and several weeks after providing him with goods and food, he appeared to be faring much better.
The group has a storage shed in Long Gully for the goods they collect and they hope to one day it will become not only a drop-off point for donations, but a place people can go any time to collect things they need.
They also plan to set up a donated trailer with its own barbecue, so they can offer more and be ready to lend a hand when needed, including in times of natural disaster.
Mr Abbott said there were “a lot of people here that really need help” and he had seen a need for such services in the community.
It is estimated about 300 people are homeless on any given night in Bendigo, and census data suggests the number of people who were homeless in Victoria jumped by more than 20 per cent between 2006 and 2011.
Mr Abbott said the group’s work was proof it did not take much time or many people to make a difference to people’s lives.
He said he hoped that their example would “raise the bar” and prompt more people to take action to help those who were homeless.
As well as providing essential goods, he said the group also simply helped make people’s days a little brighter.
“These little acts of kindness can turn around and make someone’s day… It lets people know someone cares,” Mr Abbott said.