Barry Rienecker, centre, with some local patrons, has been with the Ipswich branch of Rosies for seven years.
There’s more to being homeless than just sleeping on the streets, says Rosies’ Ipswich coordinator Barry Rienecker.
“We do get some people who are rough sleepers, that number goes up and down periodically, but what we find is the majority of people who come to our outreaches come out for the company because they are so socially isolated,” he said.
“A lot of them drop in for a chat, it’s a very social environment and if you didn’t know that it was a group of homeless people, you’d think it was just a bunch of people having a lovely picnic and evening together.”
Mr Rienecker has been volunteering with Rosies, which aims to offer friendship and unconditional acceptance to those who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or who experience social isolation or loneliness, for seven years, after learning about the organisation through members of his Catholic Church parish.
“I just love it and I love chatting with people,” he said.
“I am a really shy person so before this I really struggled to go out and talk to people I didn’t know.
“This has taught me a lot.”
But it’s not just Mr Rienecker who learns from Rosies’ patrons, local schools St Edmunds College, St Peter Claver College, St Mary’s College and Springfield College have Year 11 and 12 students who attend outreaches.
While he was grateful for the help, he said it was important youths learnt about all of the social issues stemming from homelessness.
“Not only do they learn about it themselves, but they go back to school and share with the younger students,” he said.
“The best feedback we get is that they go back and talk to their peers about their experiences.”
Mr Rienecker said about 30 to 40 people attended the Ipswich outreaches at Queens Park on Wednesday from 4.30pm to 6.30pm and Thursday from 5pm to 7pm and St Paul’s Anglican Church Friday from 7pm to 9pm and Sunday from 3.30pm to 5pm.
“Wednesdays are my favourite days because we have the Orange Sky volunteers with their laundry van and Down to Earth come out and provide a meal too,” he said.
“Orange sky are great and they have two shower units set up and people who don’t have houses, are trying to save or don’t have very good water pressure are able to come and have a shower. And the same goes for the laundry, those without washing machines are able to use the facilities.”
While both Ipswich outreaches have a number of current volunteers, Mr Rienecker said the branch was still able to take on a few more.
“We’re looking for a small number of volunteers to top up our teams, so jump onto our website, rosies.org.au, and have a look at what nights are available and make an application.”
Mr Rienecker said Rosies always welcomed donations. Things like coffee, cordial, biscuits, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, razors, sanitary items and wipes were items particularly helpful.
“We find that roll on deodorants are popular and cleaning wipes are good for people who don’t have a home,” he said.
“We are very grateful for the support that we receive.”
By Kate Dodd