I had the amazing opportunity to volunteer with the Sydney Homeless Connect day this year, which was held on Tuesday 4 June at Town Hall. The Sydney Homeless Connect is a day where service providers such as Housing, Medicare, Centrelink and the Salvation Army join up with other providers such as The Big Issue, Legal Aid and medical service such as dental, optical, chiropractic to get together in one spot to provide free service and provide advice to people who are homeless.
I worked the information desk on the lower level of the building where hairdressers were providing free cuts and styles, clothes and shoes were handed out and people could get a massage. Upstairs was the medical area and service providers all had stalls to give free info and advice. A hot lunch was served and there were even a couple of bands playing. Two girls were walking around the building with a big sign saying ‘Free Hugs!’
My job was to direct people to the services they were after. I had a map of all the stalls and a list of the services that were there on the day. My library skills came in very handy and there were quite a few people who were asking questions about whether there were service providers who could offer low cost internet connection in their hostels or boarding houses. I was able to suggest that they could visit their public library to stay connected with the free wifi and internet access most of us provide. I am not aware of service providers who might offer a cheaper connection to disadvantaged people, has anyone else heard of something like this?
I also helped a man who had a question on where he might track down his fathers war medals which had been lost when he became homeless after his mother died.
I did feel during the day that there should definitely have been some library representation, if not just with the volunteer side of things but even with a stall of our own where we could let people know of the technological and recreational services we provide. If we brought some brochures and a few laptops we could help people with the information we know is out there to help them. We could even gather some more information ourselves from the other service providers to provide our customers with once we are back in our libraries.
The Footpath Library were there handing out books and their stocks had nearly run out by lunchtime. I propose we create a Library Stall next year with ALIA Sydney for the next Homeless Connect Day to spread the word on how much libraries can do to help all of our customers and community! Who’s with me?!