There are many reasons why someone finds themselves homeless. These reasons are never good. Domestic violence, divorce, mental health issues, drug and alcohol addiction, loss of work, injury or illness. Homelessness is a by-product of unfortunate life circumstances and it can happen to anyone.
As a community, we can all do something to assist our fellow community members, particularly in their time of need.
This year again, I am an Ambassador for the St Vincent’s Community Sleepout, in particular, raising funds for Fred’s Place, the Tweed and Southern Gold Coast regions homeless support service. Each week, Fred’s Place assist hundreds of people with a safe place to come to for a warm shower, a hot meal, laundry, internet and computers or just to chill out and talk to someone in a safe, warm environment. Fred’s Place staff are a friendly face and a listening ear, providing access to a home-like environment and services such as counselling, community housing support, Legal Aid, Centrelink, doctors and many more.
With no government funding, without the support from Vinnies op shops and community donations, Fred’s Place would not exist.
My goal is to raise $1500 towards their fundraising goals in July and August, culminating in the Community Sleepout at Seagulls Club on the night of the 29th August. You can support this goal by Registering as a Fundraiser or by donating through my fundraising page. Every bit helps!
Thanks in advance,
Dr Gregory P Smith
Just some of the organisations I support
Fred’s Place, Tweed Heads
Fred’s Place is the Tweed region’s homeless support service, supported by St Vincent de Paul Society and community donations. Fred’s Place offers a home-like environment for persons to drop in, do laundry, have a shower or a hot meal and a cuppa, chill out in a warm and safe environment and access support services such as counselling, referrals to emergency housing, Legal Aid, doctors and much more.
It all started with a homeless guy, one of the many in Brisbane. Grant sold the Big Issue in Brisbane CBD, and because of his kind outgoing nature, big friendly smile and bright blue eyes he soon had many regular customers from all walks of life who started to call him Grant the Polite Guy because he was so kind and polite. One day one of them handed him a big bag with ladies’ clothes, and asked him to give the clothes to someone who needed them. That same afternoon Grant gave the clothes to a very deserving homeless lady who was so happy she danced around in front of him in her new clothes. Grant felt so much joy making another human being so happy that he wanted to do it again. A friend of his suggested he get more clothes, this friend would buy some sausages and they would hold a BBQ giving away the clothes. And thus happened Grant’s first BBQ.
Apart from doing this, Grant also was the inventor of the Pie and Coke. This means that from his small income as a Big Issue vendor he invited other homeless people (one at the time) to have a meal with him, saying he didn’t want to eat alone. He bought both of them a meal, sat back and listened to the other’s story. If he heard that this person wanted to change and was serious about getting out of homelessness he would do whatever he could to help this person make this happen. He made many phone calls on the pay phone for this, feeding it many of his hard-earned coins. He had a lot of connections to help him help other homeless people. With his help many left homelessness behind them, and several of his supporters then are still supporting Signal Flare today.
Soon Grant was very busy selling the Big Issue, doing Pies and Cokes AND organizing BBQs for other homeless people. Probably one of the busiest homeless people in town! He held up a big sign at Post Office Square saying that he collected clothes for the homeless on Friday right there, and that people could drop off any toiletries, clothes and shoes they didn’t want to see again. He received bags and bags full of clothes, shoes and toiletries. One of the banks across the road offered him some free storage space in the building to leave donations, and because of the people he knew through selling the Big Issue he soon had many supporters and donations for his next BBQ. After his busy days he lay on a park bench at night, dreaming of the charity he wanted to start because a charity could get more done than one homeless man. He even already knew the name of the charity: Signal Flare, because when you are in need and throw out a signal flare someone will come and help.
One day I (Berni) was introduced to Grant by a mutual friend and bought a Big Issue off him. We started to talk. He told me what it was like to be homeless, to look different than most people, to wear clothes that are too big, too small, or for a different season, and often not clean or even whole. He told me what it felt like when people look through you or past you, not at you. Keywords of homelessness for him were isolation, cold, humiliation, survival. I decided to help Grant to organize a BBQ. My first BBQ convinced me of the great need out there. Talking with our guests I became profoundly aware that the need for them to be treated as the human beings they are was as great as the need for life’s basic goods and food. Being listened to for the first time brought tears to one man’s eyes. Lots of tears, throughout the conversation. I saw and heard that these BBQs had a deep and wonderful impact on our guests and volunteers alike, and I decided to keep helping Grant. We grew the BBQs, we established a dedicated team around us and Signal Flare was born. Getting fully registered was a long and laborious process but we got there.
This is where we come from, the history and the heart we carry inside. Today, Grant is not homeless anymore, but unfortunately has had to scale back his Signal Flare activities significantly due to serious health issues. However, he is part of our Circle of Inspiration because of his thriving within and beyond homelessness to help others, and when he is well enough he attends our BBQs. Signal Flare is thriving. We hold four big BBQs per year for the homeless and others in need where everything is for free. We have forged beautiful, solid relationships within the community with many support services that are keen to assist regularly. This enables us to offer free medical checks, foot care, shower and laundry, and haircuts. We can often enjoy live music. The community generously donates clothes, shoes, toiletries, children’s toys, non-perishable foods and more. We often have amazing food from amazing, warm-hearted food creators called Dalton Hospitality. If they can’t make it our other volunteers come up with great items for a huge BBQ lunch. A lot of volunteers on and prior to the day make each BBQ possible, and everybody makes the day special for everybody just by being the wonderful people they are.
Signal Flare is a small group of very dedicated, passionate volunteers, and the bigger Signal Flare community is massive and just as passionate. Everyone gives what they can. They cook, they bake bread, they donate goods or collect donated goods from their own little army of supporters, they drive around picking up or dropping off donations, they transport tables and marquees, they help make our guests feel welcome, they perform health checks, cut hair, serve food and drinks and help our guests find what they need… Too much to mention. A lot of time goes into the organization of these BBQs but we love what we do.
This year, Dr Gregory Smith became our Patron and part of our Circle of Inspiration, our life builders who have overcome homelessness and who, coming from a place of lived experience, inspire and encourage others to keep going because change is possible. We are so grateful and humbled to have him on board. He naturally shares the message that we are so passionate about spreading, namely, the message of inclusion, equality and hope for a better future; he is living proof that homelessness does not need to be permanent…
The future looks promising. We have plans that go beyond the BBQs but that are still in their infancy. Now seems a better time than ever to bring those plans to fruition step by step. We are excited and are looking forward to making it happen!
We are so grateful to also have been granted DGR (Deductible Gift Recipient) status, which means that any donations to us of $2 or more are tax deductible.
Bank of Queensland
A/C Name: Signal Flare Inc
A/C No: 22066259
Best source of information around our activities and what we are about can be found on this link to our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/HomelessBBQs
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or pm our Facebook page.
A couple of little people who were very happy with your donations last year. Thank you!