The memory of a homeless man freezing in the morning cold goosed my decision to lose my locks for charity, so this Friday, I’m going the full Sinead.
To state the chillingly obvious, it’s been bloody cold this winter. I don’t live in Canberra (thank Gawd), but I know that snow dotted the Aussie capital’s suburbs like persistent confetti last week. I live in Moree, a town of about 9,000 people about an hour and a half west of Inverell and an hour south of the Queensland border, and even though we’re not far from the tropic north, every one of the last nine mornings I’ve had to defrost an inch of ice off my windscreen before driving to work at 5.15am.
This week temperatures dove well below zero at night around the country, and while many of us are reaching for a warmer blanket, putting another log on the fire or turning the heater up another notch, there are some who aren’t so lucky.
On any given night in Australia, 1 out of every 200 are homeless. Or put into an actual figure: at this very moment, 105,000 people are currently homeless in this country. Of these people, 56 percent are male and 44 percent are female, and 25 percent of them are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australians.
The number one cause of homelessness in Australia is domestic violence and family issues, by every definition a national epidemic in Australia, where no two cases are the same, and where there is no great big magic wand you can wave to fix it. However, there are those fixing a desperately needed band-aid to a bleeding wound.
I looked at the temperature gauge on my dashboard to see it was 4 °Celsius. Even though I called MAHS to pick him up, the memory of that particular man has stuck with me, as has the guilt of not doing more.
There are local services around the country who work day in day out to help those affected by homelessness that are the closest thing we’ve got to that magical implement. They provide shelter in the form of emergency accommodation, have food available, clothing, as well as pathway and referral programs to help the people who come through their services. In our community, it’s MAHS (Moree Area Homelessness Service). In the last year alone, the team at MAHS helped with over 380 cases of homelessness for the 9,000 people of Moree; when you keep in mind that these cases can sometimes be entire families with nowhere else to go, it’s a huge number of people without somewhere to stay.
Last year, while I was driving to work, I saw a man with a longish piece of cardboard over him, propped against the fence of a football field on my drive into work at 5.20. It was late July and I looked at the temperature gauge on my dashboard to see it was 4 °Celsius. Even though I called MAHS to pick him up, the memory of that particular man has stuck with me, as has the guilt of not doing more.
So, to honour that and make amends in my own way, I’ll be shaving my hair off to raise money in this bitey cold winter; after three and a half years of growing this mane and taming it with Moroccan oil, my undyed and thick brown hair will hit the floor in piles. While I’ll lose my ability to dance, it matters not. As it stands, life is pretty good for me, and hopefully this small effort will make it better for someone else.
To find out more, or to donate, please visit www.hairlessforhomeless.wordpress.com.