Giving HOPE to the homeless

2 June 2015

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In the lead up to Homelessness Prevention Week, people are encouraged to raise awareness and understanding of homelessness in Australia.

Helping Other People Eat, or HOPE, is a volunteer group aiming to phase out homelessness in Melbourne’s CBD. The group consists of university students who venture out into the city and distribute bags of necessary items to the homeless.

Danyal Kurdas, founder of HOPE, tells upstart that the group’s primary aim is to get homeless people off the streets.

“It’s a group to help other people eat, that’s literally what it stands for. It’s a difficult task, but we try to provide short term assistance in the form of food, drink, resources, groceries, clothing and accessories,” he says.

“It’s just a volunteer group of self-motivated people trying to help the wider community.”

Kurdas says that a typical night for HOPE in Melbourne begins on the corner of Flinders Street and Elizabeth Street. The group aims to cover the most popular parts of the CBD.

“Depending on the time of night, the later it goes into the night, the more people you’ll encounter. If its eight or nine o’clock, you might encounter five to ten homeless people, and they’re the ones that you recognise,” he says.

“If you come later on at night, like one o’clock in the morning, that’s where you really see who’s homeless.”

Recalling his first encounter with a homeless man, Kurdas explains the group had prepared only four bags and met up at Flinders Street Station.

“At first, he was a little bit reluctant to talk. Most people in the city see someone my age and think of an idiot going out clubbing,” he says.

“You can never really be sure if they’re telling you the truth, but when you start to encounter people at 1 am on the streets, it’s a little different.

“It was a little bit hard to deal with at the time, but his face changed immediately from apprehension to appreciation.”

The bags are bought with the volunteers’ own money and consist of necessary items such as a water bottle, crackers, muesli bars, tuna cans, baked beans, jelly cups, a banana, resealable sandwich bags, bread, plastic spoons and occasionally clothing and accessories such as scarves and gloves.

Although the items could be seen as basic to some, Kurdas says they have a major impact on those in need.

“That small spark of hope that you’re giving to people is touching. You only give them food or groceries or resources to last a day or two but still its that gesture. It’s something small that will help them out and provide a little bit of comfort.”

However, the group was not always so successful.

The original group was founded in 2013 but was disbanded soon after due to a number of members tarnishing its image.

The group met at a nearby McDonald’s following a trip into the city but Kurdas explains that a number of members then decided to behave disrespectfully.

“A few people decided to muck around and started a food fight in McDonald’s which defeated the message of why we we’re there,” he says.

“We are privileged and we’re trying to give back to people on the streets who struggle to find food, then you have a few people representing HOPE just wasting food.

“The group was losing momentum and its reputation was going downhill.”

A year later, he restarted the group with a new image and an improved vision to help more people than ever before.

“In 2011, it was estimated that there were 1,050 homeless people. That’s just the people we know about but that number has been increasing every year,” Kurdas says.

“Even if we reduced the amount of homeless people on the streets by one, it would be worth it to me, but hopefully we can do a lot more than that.”


Tijan BinerTijan Biner is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University. You can follow her on Twitter: @tijanb.




Featured image by Matthew Woitunski via Wikimedia Commons