SOMEWHERE in Anthony Sullivan’s neighbourhood is a child without a pair of shoes, a mother desperate to pay the bills, and an ex-prisoner with no food and no place to call home.
A member of the St Vincent de Paul Society’s Rosalie/Red Hill conference and Jubilee parishioner, Mr Sullivan has seen first-hand the poverty some Australians face, and many of them are his neighbours.
“I go up to a private hotel up here and it’s sitting on the floor with someone with just a mattress, no sheets, nothing,” he said.
“They’re wearing a pair of shorts, a pair of thongs and they’re cold.”
Once a week Mr Sullivan volunteers to pack food hampers that other conference members will deliver to people in desperate need.
That number is growing.
“I know that in the first three months we went from twenty-five to forty-five (hampers) after Christmas,” Mr Sullivan said.
“I’m told the official figures now is around a thirty per cent increase this year in demand.”
The demand could be for school shoes “so kids can attend school”, hampers brimming with donated food, a washing machine for a single mother, or advice about paying overdue power bills.
Last week parishes across Australia launched the annual Vinnies winter appeal, which helps the society’s thousands of volunteers rebuild lives around the country.
Mr Sullivan said his conference needed not only money but volunteers to cope with the unexpected increase in emergency help.
“We need volunteers to go out on a Saturday morning, to sit in somebody’s apartment and listen to them talk about domestic violence and how it’s affected them,” he said.
“Vinnies is not about giving people food or a handout.
“It’s about going into someone’s house, sitting in the lounge room or, if it’s the case of a boarding house, sitting on the squalor of the floor because all they have is a mattress.
“You sit on the squalor, you sit on the chair, you sit on the end of a bed, and you listen to people talk.
“By connecting them with Christ, that’s the job.”