Mental health advocate turns attention to wellbeing of region's homeless

A toothbrush, bar of soap and hairbrush are hardly luxuries. 

But for people forced into homelessness, these everyday objects are often left behind or not affordable. 

They are among the items Jeremy Forbes, founder of mental health organisation HALT, is collecting for central Victorian men who find themselves without secure housing.

For the month of June, Mr Forbes is collating kits full of toiletries agencies in his region will distribute to those in need.   

He has previously collected groceries and nappies for those facing hardship.

Also packed into reusable plastic containers are socks, shaving equipment and and even chocolate – something he hopes would lift the spirits of someone seeking shelter.

Mr Forbes’ work with tradespeople introduced him to people for whom financial woes meant homelessness was a real possibility.  

“You’re doing lots of quotes, working long hours, the pressures of family – there's only a fine line between everything going really smoothly and suddenly not getting quotes, the jobs dry up, the issues you haven't talked about at home flare,” he explained.  

He suspected many men did not talk about impending homelessness and, when without shelter, were ashamed to approach friends for help. 

It left them with few places to turn: boarding houses, their car, the street.

Australian Institute for Health and Wellbeing data shows more than two-thirds of Australians who sleep rough are men.

About 100,000 Australians are homeless every night.  

Castlemaine Housing Service, Cobaw Community Health and Bendigo’s ACSO office will then distribute the packs to clients in need, as will Anglicare’s youth homelessness program. 

While the donations might not solve the homelessness crisis, the gift of toiletries could give those without reliable shelter the confidence to seek help, Mr Forbes said.  

“To have a shave, have a shower, it gives them the social confidence they often lack.

“It's nice to give something tangible, something real, something beneficial.”

Donations can be left at Castlemaine Housing Services, ACSO and Cobaw Community Health, as well as Extremity Street and Sports in Castlemaine.

Scroll down to find out more about the items being sought. 

Toothbrush and toothpaste

“We know its nice to brush your teeth in at night, wake up with that fresh feeling,” Mr Forbes said.  

“Men might not think, ‘Before i leave the house because I’m angry or depressed, I'm going to pack a toiletry bag’.”

Soap and facewasher

Mr Forbes explained some homelessness services provide clients with access to a shower where donated soap could be put to use. 

“There’s even a lady in Woodend who is donating some freshly made soap; that's pretty cool,” he said. 

Razor and shaving cream

“This is about their confidence, and that confidence could be going to rent a house, or going into an emergency housing agency and asking for a house,” Mr Forbes said.

“It could be going into an employment agency to get a job.

“At least they actually feel good within themselves. 

“It's only a small step; we're not trying to solve the issues of homelessness.”

Socks and beanie

Mr Forbes’ collection drive is timed to coincide with winter, a period during which he said the public’s awareness of homelessness and its associated dangers were front of mind. 

Chocolate

While it might not be necessary to survive, a gift of chocolate could life the spirits of those enduring hardship, Mr Forbes said.  

Tissues

“Just being able to blow your nose on a tissue is something you should have to think about,” Mr Forbes said. 

Plastic container

“It's portable, waterproof, doesn't take up much room in the car,” Mr Forbes said.

“If they need to take it with them, if they're on foot, it can go in their backpack.”

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