By Joshua Bristow
National Volunteers Week has begun and not-for-profit organisations are asking for more young people to donate their time to help the homeless.
Housing and Public Works Minister Tim Mander visited the St Vincent de Paul Support Centre in Spring Hill to thank the volunteers there for their work.
Short term projects to entice young people
Mr Mander says the government is looking to introduce easier ways for young people to volunteer.
“We’ve got to try to appeal to the younger generation who are not used to the ethos of volunteering which was very big 50 years ago but now everyone is so time poor and busy,” he said.
“We need to make it easier for people to volunteer and if we do that we’ll help some of the people who have volunteered for 30-40 years.”
Mr Mander says short term projects are more attractive to young volunteers.
“We just had a homeless registry program in Brisbane, where people went out into the street and found out how many people are homeless and the reason for their homelessness,” Mr Mander said.
“We had 400 people do that, 150 of them volunteers and most of those were young people.
“The kinds of things we need to encourage are short term projects rather than ongoing work, which can lead to burn out and tiring.”
In a 2008 report the Department of Communities estimated the value of organised volunteering in Queensland to be $4.5 billion.
St Vincent de Paul Support Centre coordinator Bertha Clark, a volunteer of 24 years, says her work is confronting but rewarding.
“I just love what I do, and I must like it because I wouldn’t be doing it,” Ms Clark said.
“It’s all about doing for a person who hasn’t got what you’ve got, it’s hard, and it’s not always easy.
“You do get some frustrated people because we cannot help everyone financially, but we do the best we can.”
She says Vinnie’s is always on the lookout for more volunteers, particularly men.
“There are many volunteer jobs available – we will take anyone, we don’t get a lot of men volunteering it is mostly women,” she said.
St Vincent de Paul Volunteer Cecily Murphy agrees more young volunteers are needed as herself and her colleagues are often inundated with work.
“We could always use more help -I can only do one day a week – I have an elderly husband so I just cannot commit to more, so I do the best I can,” Ms Murphy said.
“It’s hard to roster for – some days we might have 12 clients and then one the next.
“They stay up at night and sleep-in in the morning so we can get five or six people on the veranda at midday saying that they are hungry.”
Go Cards too expensive for homeless
Ms Murphy also asked Mr Mander if the centre could be supplied with Go-Cards
“Go-Cards are $10 to buy and then you put money on them, so if we gave everyone a Go-Card we’d go broke very quickly,” she said.
“We would like to be able to have a draw of Go-Cards that we could give out and put $5 on them for people.”
Mr Mander agreed and said he would discuss the issue with the Minister for Transport and Main Roads, Scott Emerson.