Monday, September 19, 2016

Comming together as a community Goodna

WOW what a day yesterday was, but first a quick recap.
Over 1,000 of JBS beef workers have had huge hours cut coming down to 2 days a week and some weeks no work at all and all this has been happening since January this year. A lot of these workers have been there for 10+ years.
This means a lot of these families are now having trouble making “ends meat” so to speak.
Buying food for their families or paying rent?

Doing a joint effort with Helen from “Goodna Street Life” and “Signal Flare” we collected huge amounts of food and toiletries with a huge amount coming from “Share the Dignity”
We all did a call out and asking the community to come together and help people in need when they needed it most. Helpers, food and toiletries came from everywhere.

Pallets of food, Boxes of everything and people brought car loads of stuff they had collected from friends and families all came together to help. It really was an amazing sight-seeing so many people wanting to help.

About 600 worker families that had been doing it so tough and hitting hardship came and collected only what they needed so others could collect too. There were “Thank you’s” everywhere. A lot of the people helping even had to step away once or twice because it was so heartfelt to see such need.

I’m sorry to say that even though we had collected so much we still didn’t have enough food or toiletries. I felt so bad that here we were saying to these people we know your in a bad way and to come down and we will help you then when they turn up there’s nothing there for them. I quickly grabbed a pen and paper and started writing down names and phone numbers saying I’ll quickly do a call out and get food and toiletries to them within the next few days.

So over the next 2-3 days I’m collecting as much food and things as I can to quickly get them out there to the families that didn’t get anything.

Also because of such hardship we are doing the event again but this time in a much bigger way with a lot more food and toiletries. On the 1st of OCT at “Goodna Street Life” 2 Mill St, Goodna from 10am.

So once again I am asking please help us to help others, we need any types of FOOD and TOILETRIES so we can give for free to these people doing it so tough. If many people donate a few things then it adds up to be truck loads.

Thank you.



Now this next bit I’m very very excited about. WOOHOO

Everyone knows I make such little money as a Big Issue vendor but I try to help as many people as I can.

I have started a new referring business that is going to be awesome, here’s how it works.

You go to the site and compare things like power, mobile phones deal and even home internet. It could even be the same company you already use. For example if you wanted a new mobile phone, go to the site and click mobile phone and it’ll bring up Vodafone website with my link attached. You get the same deal you would with Vodafone anyway but they’ll pay me 10% every time you pay your bill for a referring commission.

I could use this money to help so many more people in a huge way and people get the same deal they were on. It don’t matter which company you’re on, please compare if you get same or better deal and switch using my site.

I love this, it’ll earn money and free my time to help more people click here 

The best news is that it’s not Australia, this site works in lots of countries around the world. Just click your country flag and it’ll bring up your local services. If anyone wants help setting up their own site let me know and I’ll be happy to help you set it up for you.

Have you clicked to site yet? Just check it out and see how easy it is.

I’d like to ask everyone though when you choose a service or package could you please email me your name and what service you did so I can track and make sure it went under my link right. Accidents happens.

Grant the Polite Guy
Grant Richards

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Helping 1,000 people

I got a phone call from “Helen” at “Goodna Street Life” asking for help for a lady which is going to be one of my biggest challenges yet.

I meet up with Helen and this lady “Angie” to work out what has happened and what was need. I soon found out that since Jan 500 people were fired and all remaining workers had their hours cut by half and even some weeks no work at all. Angie and her husband both work for the meatworks and since their living only on little hours were having trouble each and every week.

Feeling sad for her I asked what can we do to help? Her reply was just asking for food and toiletries for her family and families effected and hurting as well.

I quickly thought how we should help because to me helping a family going through such tough times they could easily fall backwards and become homeless without support, I would rather help people not becoming homeless instead of waiting for them to become homeless and then help.

I asked how many families are we talking about needing help with food and toiletries.

1,000 workers with families.

Now don’t get me wrong I heard the words and almost fell over. We do HUGE homeless BBQ every 8 weeks, but this was getting resources for not just 1,000 people but 1,000 families and if I was going to hold this event we might as well invite homeless and people in need in the area and help them too.

I took a second to remember I had bad health and I myself was only a Big Issue Vendor making very little money myself. But this wasn’t about me and these people needed help. I knew I would have contact “Bernie the Polite Girl” and our Signal Flare team to help bring the community together and ask for help to help them.

On the 18th in a week we will be helping well over a 1,000 people at
“Goodna Street Life”
2 Mill St Goodna
10am – 2pm

We desperately need helpers, food, clothes and toiletries. As much as we can.

Let’s show the community coming together to show we care and give a hand up.

I can be contacted on email or selling my Big Issues in the city.



Now this next bit I’m very very excited about. WOOHOO

Everyone knows I make such little money as a Big Issue vendor but I try to help as many people as I can.

I have started a new referring business that is going to be awesome, here’s how it works.

You go to the site and compare things like power, mobile phones deal and even home internet. It could even be the same company you already use. For example if you wanted a new mobile phone, go to the site and click mobile phone and it’ll bring up Vodafone website with my link attached. You get the same deal you would with Vodafone anyway but they’ll pay me 10% every time you pay your bill for a referring commission.

I could use this money to help so many more people in a huge way and people get the same deal they were on. It don’t matter which company you’re on, please compare if you get same or better deal and switch using my site.

I love this, it’ll earn money and free my time to help more people click here  

The best news is that it’s not Australia, this site works in lots of countries around the world. Just click your country flag and it’ll bring up your local services. If anyone wants help setting up their own site let me know and I’ll be happy to help you set it up for you.

Have you clicked to site yet? Just check it out and see how easy it is.

I’d like to ask everyone though when you choose a service or package could you please email me your name and what service you did so I can track and make sure it went under my link right. Accidents happens.

I’d like to thank you very much for reading my blog and I hope you all have an awesome day. Remember in 7 days we are helping over a 1,000 people in need so if you can help please do.

Grant the Polite Guy
Grant Richards

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Oh people, what I am going to write happened four days ago, 12 November 2015, but it’s like it happened last night, and I am still so excited!!! Yes, you read the title right: he won! Before you read any further I want to say that we are totally thrilled about this win. Not just because It was Grant who won (and very deservedly so!!!), but because he was the only finalist who works hands on in the field with the homeless. With making Grant the winner of a nation-wide awards event it really seems that people have opened their hearts to the homeless and to helping the homeless, and this is wonderful news. Going to post some photos here and I do have to apologize, I still have to figure out how to get the flash on my phone to work...
Already one happy chappy, before the winners were announced :-)
Of course you all know by now what amazing works Grant does helping the homeless and others in need, and it is a huge honour for me to work beside him. Grant helps in more ways than people know, and he has been doing this for years, ever since he got himself back together a bit while being homeless after he got discharged from the hospital with a back brace and a walking frame. Not only has he been doing heaps for others, he also encouraged and inspired many who were better off to do their bit for the disadvantaged as well, and so he has a lot to do with much of the good stuff that is happening around here. Grant has come so far, from being on a successful career path, to getting horrifically injured, to becoming homeless, to helping other homeless get on their feet and do it himself too, and after all that still continuing to help the homeless and others in need, and now the Community Leader Award 2015... I don't know about you, but I am in awe...  
Would have loved to post a photo here from Grant helping, but we try to keep the helping discreet and don't take photos of it. So, here's a photo of the Awards night
And on 12 November, people, all his passion to help the homeless and others in need has been officially acknowledged. Of course, acknowledgement comes first and foremost from the people he helps. Seeing them turn their lives around, seeing them walk straighter and talk more confidently are all confirmations that what he is doing is awesome and important and changes the world for at least the people he helps. Great formal acknowledgement though came quite a few weeks ago, when Grant received an email saying that he had been nominated for The Catholic Leader’s “Community Leader Awards 2015”, and that he was one of the semi-finalists.  Great cheer, great fun, very joyous, because it is of course a huge honour to be nominated for such an amazing sounding award. Being one of the semi-finalists made it even more exciting. We were just about dancing and singing that day, we were THAT excited! And because Grant was a semi-finalist, he was invited to a cocktail party where the winner would be announced. He invited me to come along, and of course for the ladies the issue always is and always will be “What am I going to wear!” Although I do like a cocktail I am not really a frequent cocktail party goer, but once there my choice didn’t seem too bad, haha.
I think we're both pulling off the cocktail party style quite OK, haha

 Some time before the cocktail party Grant was told he had progressed to the finals and was asked to record a video clip, which he of course did, talking with great passion about what he does and how he sees the community come together. We had a lovely night at the Francis Rush Centre, on the grounds of the beautiful St Stephen’s Cathedral. They had the red carpet spread out for us WOOHOO, they looked after us very, very well with yummy finger foods and drinks, there was excellent live music, and we were in the company of around 200 truly amazing people. It was a bit nerve wrecking; of course, when you are a finalist, having by-passed so many others nation-wide and being so close to winning, winning is what you hope for.


And then the prizes were announced. Grant’s category was the last one, “Community Leader of the Year”. When he was announced as the winner, my right arm went straight up in the air, the left one holding my phone for photos haha. I was so happy and so was he. I think we both - and many with us - grinned from ear to ear. He did a spontaneous speech that everyone loved – they were all talking about how genuine it was. Sorry, I don’t remember a lot of what he said because I was so excited and taking shaky pictures haha, sorry. But everyone else just loved what he said and how he said it. He got lots of handshakes and congratulations. It was a great night. Apart from an awesome certificate, rolled up with a beautiful ribbon around it, he received an original framed painting with a little plaque “The Catholic Leader – Community Leader of the Year 2015”. Just beautiful.
The winner, in front of the screen with the three finalists on it.

How happy is he, painting in one hand, certificate in the other :-)

Archbishop Mark Coleridge congratulating Grant.

Grant and the beautiful painting he won
Like I said at the start, this award means a lot, not just to Grant but also to me. Not just because he won it (which is truly awesome), but because it was awarded for helping our fellow men, women and children in need. It shows that people notice “heart”, they are open to people who put into action that saying “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, they acknowledge helping those in need as something that is crucial in our community. I hope this also means that people who have in any way been involved in and inspired by the choice of winner will go out in the field more, and with their actions help those in need more, give more, and see more.

Everyone has a story, and once you hear it, it changes everything… Grant's is one of overcoming adversity, more than once... A trooper, all the way!!! 


Written by Bernie the Polite Girl for The Polite Team.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


Our BBQ for the Homeless and Others in Need this past Saturday 10 October, World Homeless Day, was a true beauty! Because we had teamed up with Sanity Fair who raises awareness of Mental Health, it was a bigger event than we normally have. And in our stretch of marquees for homeless help at Musgrave Park the most beautiful things took place, and I will tell you a few little stories.

Before starting on the lttle stories, I like to shout out a huge THANK YOU to many and as always, I am bound to forget some names once I start naming names, so please do understand this is not intentional! Jerome Dalton and your amazing crew at Dalton Hospitality, you absolutely rocked it once again, feeding everyone in a way only you can with the yumminess of food only you provide. Absolutely beautiful what you bring to our events, both the food and the people. SecondBite, thank you so much for generously providing Jerome with high-quality fresh produce to work with. OzHarvest, thank you, Australian Food Corporation, thank you. Shawn Scheiwe, thank you for filming our event from the skies with your drone - we can't wait to see the result! Share the Dignity, thank you for joining us with your free female sanitary products for homeless women. You are such remarkable ladies, and what you do is so important. Thank you to all the generous people who donated clothes, shoes, toys, non-perishable foods etc. Without all of you we would not be able to do what we do. And last but definitely not least, a big thank you to the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Graham Quirk, for dropping by. We are grateful for your support.

The Polite Team with Lord Mayor Graham Quirk

And then, the little stories. Well, first of all, two days before the BBQ I posted a photo on our Signal Flare Facebook page. It was a photo of a garbage bin, and I wrote with it "Imagine if... the only meal you could afford came out of this bin, where others chuck their leftovers... How would you feel? Just think about it". I also mentioned that our BBQ was only two sleeps away, and if people couldn't think of a last-minute thing to bring to donate, canned foods/fruits were a good option. The photo had over 3,000 views, and the amount of canned veggies, fruits, tuna etc, pastas and rice we received at the BBQ was overwhelming. People came with bags full to donate. We laid it all out on the table, and our guests could just take whatever they needed. It was absolutely heart warming to see our community care about the disadvantaged among us. And the table was restocked throughout the event, because the need for these foods was high.

Malcolm, one of our lovely regular guests, with some of the donated unperishable foods

Second little story. One of our valued volunteers, Ann, had a painful back and went for a lay-down in the grass. One of our guests saw that she was in pain and grabbed in his backpack. He grabbed his unused bottle of water and wanted to give it to her, but Ann had trouble accepting because the guy was so clearly homeless and it was obvious that he had very little. The guy, however, insisted, and in the end Ann took his bottle. It was the best thing she could have done. It made the guy's day, because he had been able to give back to someone who had done good things that day. Even though for us it might be one of the million things that happen any particular day and not really worth a mention, for this guy it was very special because he had the opportunity to give, and he made a difference to someone in pain, to someone who did something good for the guests of which he was one. It was very special also for Ann. It may be true that homeless people don't have many possessions, but they care too, they want to give too, they are like anyone else, just with less stuff.

Ann drinking from the water bottle she received from one of our guests

Third little story. Tyler. Tyler is a high school student who compassionately chose his school project to raise awareness of homelessness. He did this by interviewing Grant the Polite Guy, me and Clayton, one of our guests on camera. The way in which Tyler asked his questions and the way he responded to my answering, not so much in words but in body language and facial expression, told me that he cared about people less fortunate than himself. After the interview he shook my hand and told me what a remarkable lady I was, but let me tell you, Tyler, you are nothing less but remarkable yourself! It is wonderful to see someone of the younger generation being so community oriented, so compassionate, and so open to the unfamiliar. It shows us that there is hope for the future. He will do well in his life.

Tyler and his camera. Let us know how you went, Tyler. We hope we helped you get a High Distinction!

Fourth story. A picture says more than a thousand words... I don't know who of the two enjoyed themselves more, but all people great and small had a good time at our BBQ :-)

Little people and big people enjoying themselves at our BBQ.

Fifth little story. The lovely Karena visited our BBQ. She told us that the government had a Homeless Hotline that was barely made use of because people did not know it existed. This Hotline is a Queensland-wide service for the homeless, where they can get advice on where to get food, showers, clothing etc. If people are after accommodation the staff won't get off the phone until they find them somewhere to stay temporarily, how awesome is that! We have been widely advertising this hotline since the BBQ, and already at least almost 5000 more people are now aware of its existence thanks to us yay :-) Thank you for helping us spread the word!

All in all, like all our BBQs for the Homeless and Others in Need, this was one positive event with a million little positive stories inside. Typically, we forgot to bring our Signal Flare banner, the banner that we are so proud of, but our minds were full of the things we needed to bring and think about for the homeless and others in need. Our BBQs are about them and what they need, and then forgetting to bring our banner is easy to do. But the homeless and others in need will always recognize us, with or without banner. Next time we'll remember to bring it, though :-) This what it looks like, haha, note the thumbs up on either side:

I hope you enjoyed reading this. See you next time!

Written by Bernie the Polite Girl for the Polite Team

Saturday, September 26, 2015

So Proud

I was just sitting here thinking, feeling very proud of myself. Yes I was very successful in life before my accident that put me in and out of hospitals for 9 months. I lost everything including my home, family and became homeless. But I’m more proud of the fact that I have in my eyes turned everything around.

I started selling Big Issue magazines instead of going on Disability pension. I started helping other homeless along the way even when times were tough for me, buying food and things for others when I had extra money.

I am proud to say I have made some incredible friends selling the Big Issue and together we started doing free food, clothes and toiletries at the park for other homeless  and people in need.  400 turned up at our first event.

We kept doing our Homeless BBQ’s every 8 weeks for about 5 years now and they have gotten bigger. Every event I didn’t know if we would get all the food, clothes and toiletries to hand out for free but we did it. Not one coin is exchanged at our events, except if a homeless gets a job on the day, then I grab a hat and race around to all the volunteers and ask for tips to helping pay for work clothes, accommodation, money on Go-cards for travel, lots of food and things like that. But a lot of times I try to save my money from selling mags to pay for it without passing the hat.

With smart people doing all the work we started a non for profit charity called “Signal Flare” which I still have not figured out how to get it big enough to receive a wage for all the great work I do haha

As I said we do these events every 8 weeks, the next event is going to be the hardest and biggest one yet. 10th of October at Musgrave Park 10am – 2pm. You see I understand that a lot of homeless and people in need have mental health issues so at this event we are going to be doing a joint event with “Sanity Fair” which helps brings all the Mental Health services there.

There’s a lot of things I still don’t know how we are going to do it, this will be huge. But I know quitting or canceling the event will never happen. It’ll come together. Volunteers needing that’s for sure.

Homeless will be able to get free food, clothes, toiletries, blankets, kids toys and much more while seeing what all the mental health services do as a service. Now this is going to help a lot of people.

I have often said I don’t do all this, it’s the community coming together to do the “Aussie Mate” thing and offer to help a person when they need a hand up. Everyone hits hard times.

I have been invited to at least 50+ weddings from people that have got on their feet, meet someone and thought enough of me to invite, some even asked for me to be ‘Best Man’

We have had employers come to these events just to offer a homeless person a new start and give them a job which is awesome, yes I have been offered to but with my injuries and things I would only be letting the employer down, beside I’d rather help someone else.

I see so much good karma coming back in my own way, you see I was very unwell and spent time in hospital, so many people came to visit me, homeless and working people that I thought at one stage I might have to do a rooster for visit times. Haha

Best of all why I’m feeling so proud right now. I see so many smiles and get so many Thank You’s that I know I have made a difference.

Thank you very much for reading our blog and we hope you all have an awesome day.

Grant the Polite Guy
Grant Richards
0142 190 011

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Bernie the Polite Girl for Blank Gold Coast magazine

The invisibility issue: Homelessness |MAKING A DIFFERENCE – a volunteer’s perspective

Making_A_Difference WEB

Homelessness really gets me talking. My involvement started over three years ago when a mutual friend introduced me to Grant Richards, one of the Big Issue vendors in Brisbane city at the time. I bought a magazine from him, and we talked. Many times. Having been homeless himself, he talked about homelessness, helping the homeless and the BBQs he organised for homeless people and others in need. I decided to help. Many affectionately called him Grant the Polite Guy and, after helping others together for some time and developing a close friendship, he nicknamed me Bernie the Polite Girl, and us together as The Polite Team. A big honour!

I never thought about the homeless before because I didn’t know any people in that situation. Grant changed this for me. He talked about the lived experience of being homeless, of walking through the city looking different, in clothes that aren’t clean, aren’t the right size or don’t fit the season, and with all of one’s possessions in a bag. He talked about not having a door to close and be safe behind at the end of the day, about “being moved on” when trying to sleep in an alley or on a park bench, about people uttering nasty slurs while walking past. Homelessness was about survival, isolation, humiliation and cold. I was inspired to help him help the homeless, and from then on life had added depth; when you help people, you get to know them. Out of the undefined shapes that dissolved in the masses who lived, worked and breathed in the city, faces emerged. Hearts. Stories. Human beings.

The first BBQ I helped Grant organise was a real eye opener. Initially a bit nervous about the unfamiliar, I felt very comfortable very quickly. I was deeply touched by the big, genuine need out there, and especially by the thoughtfulness people showed. Many said to me “I don’t want to take too much, because others may need it more”. These people had nothing, and in all their poverty, with this abundance of food and clothes in front of them, they still thought about others first. Everyone shared a meal and a chat; those needing basic necessities left with things they badly needed but couldn’t afford to buy. They had smiles on their faces, walked a little straighter, were the proud new owners of toiletries, clothes, blankets. The volunteers were smiling too.

One encounter stood out for me. One man was probably in his forties, keeping to himself. I said hello, and he started to tell me about his life. He had been homeless since he was nine, he’d had some “bad” friends along the way and learned to drink. He managed to clean up his life and quit alcohol. Two major feats, accomplished while on the street, with no one to notice or to encourage him; cleaning up his life meant that he had no friends, and he had no family contact. He cried through most of our conversation, because for the first time someone listened to his story. He didn’t know my name, I didn’t know his, and it didn’t matter. We connected as human beings. Later that afternoon he said he felt better, and he had made his first decision in a long time: he’d go to Melbourne. He left with a spring in his step. I watched him go, and hoped he’d do well. For me, this encounter proved that what Grant and I did was awesome, and that we should keep doing it.

The homeless and others in need all have their own histories of why they became homeless or needy. When you ask children what they want to be when they grow up, “homeless” or “in need” is never the answer. Sometimes something goes wrong along the way, and life takes a painful turn.
We all want the same: acceptance, belonging, respect, validation, shelter. Homeless people get so little of it. Passers-by often avoid them, look through them rather than see them. The homeless are often targets of violence because they are unlikely to press charges. They are often asked to leave but everyone needs some space somewhere.

For the homeless to feel they are part of humanity and worthy of respect is a major thing, and it is so simple to achieve. It is incredibly rewarding to have a chat to someone one day, and then hear them say a few weeks later, “I thought about our conversation, and I started a TAFE course”. It is also great to see people come for help at one BBQ, get on their feet, and a couple of BBQs later come back to help others.

We can all make that difference. We can all make people feel accepted, respected, validated. Smile, say g’day, listen, and see the change! When you show people you respect and accept them, they will respect and accept themselves, and that is often just what they need to turn their lives around. If that isn’t awesome, nothing is!

Bernie the Polite Girl 

Grant the Polite Guy for Blank Gold Coast magazine


Hello everyone,

I am so proud that the Polite Team had been invited by Natalie O'Driscoll, cultural editor from Blank Gold Coast magazine to contribute to their June issue. She asked Grant and me to do a Q&A and an Op-Ed (Opinion Editorial) around the topic of homelessness. I am posting Grant's Q&A below, and my Op-Ed will be the next post. I would like to thank Natalie and Blank Gold Coast Magazine for giving us the opportunity to get our message out there. We hope our articles will be a bit of an eye opener for at least some.

If you like to read our contributions in the context of the magazine, please follow this link and find us on pages 43 and 44.

So proud of what we as the Polite Team are doing, so proud of our published articles. I hope you like reading them.

written by Bernie the Polite Girl for the Polite Team          



The Invisibility Issue: Homelessness | Grant Richards’ story

Grant Richards is a cheerful, blue-eyed man with a warm smile and a friendly demeanour. You would never know from talking to him that he had been to hell and back over the years. Drawing knowledge and strength from his own personal experiences, he now spends as much time as possible trying to help people in a similar situation. Natalie O’Driscoll spoke with him to find out more.

Tell me your personal story and experience with homelessness?
My story starts with me being very successful in life as a Head Cook at many restaurants, married with a beautiful daughter. I even had the dog and picket fence, at the time I believed I had a perfect life. Haha. Then one horrific day I had an accident with a stairwell leaving me in and out of three hospitals over nine months. The impact was enough to break all my teeth and to leave me with spinal and other injuries. I left the hospital with an external back brace and a walking frame. My body was broken. Being in constant pain I couldn’t work, while in hospital I lost the house and soon after the family. I became homeless.

The first piece of food I got was from another homeless person who didn’t have much at all, but offered to share. I was selling the Big Issue when a customer gave me a bag of clothes and asked if I would give them to a homeless person. I agreed, and the next day a homeless girl was wearing the clothes. I thought this was a great idea, so I asked people to give me clothes and food to give out at a BBQ for the homeless. 400 homeless people turned up getting food and clothes and this was the start of my Homeless BBQs.

When did the BBQs start?
July 2011 while I was still homeless myself, 400 homeless people came and got free food, clothes, toiletries and blankets. Now they run every eight weeks, at Musgrave Park South Brisbane, Ipswich, Wynnum, Caboolture and I’m hoping to start in Logan and Gold Coast this year.

How do you recruit volunteers, and get the word out to the homeless community?

We have a Facebook page Signal Flare – Helping the Homeless and Others in Need where people can follow what we’re up to, and we recruit volunteers through our events pages – we create one for every BBQ. Every Homeless BBQ we make thousands of fliers made up and spend hours walking around handing them out to the homeless and people in need. But word of mouth also gets more people there. On average we get between 400 to 1000 homeless or people in need, but even when it’s raining 400 people that need it most will still come out just to get free food, clothes, toiletries and blankets.

Homelessness, addiction and mental health issues tend to be interconnected.  What do you see as the greatest contributing factor to homelessness and why?
This is sad but the truth is there’s not enough services or resources to help even half of the people suffering from mental health and addictions. Limited help means people fall through the cracks and then in a lot of cases turn out worst as a result. A lot of people are left with homelessness because there’s nowhere left to turn. It’s a short road there but a long road back. One thing to remember is that homeless, addicts and people suffering from mental health all have one thing in common they are people who hit hard times and found it too hard to bounce back. It would be great if bouncing back could be made more within people’s reach.

What do you find are the greatest misconceptions around homelessness?
I feel the biggest misconception is that all homeless are crazy drug addicted bums that have never worked a day in their life or, as many say to me, that they can get help if they wanted it. So many homeless could never afford drugs and have been to so many services and put on endless waiting lists that they give up even more on getting back on their feet. It makes them give up on themselves even more. It really does lower your self-confidence, self-worth and the courage to ask for help if each time you ask nothing happens.

What would you change about current government policy if you could?
We work with the homeless directly, on a ground level. If they need help we give it to them. Government policy is not my forte, but every day I see people getting really depressed and discouraged when they can no longer afford to stay in crisis accommodation because it’s too expensive for them. They have no choice but go back on the street. There have been huge cutbacks in services, the number of homeless grows and so does the need. They need more services not less. There is a need for more affordable crisis accommodation, and some guidance or case management and the opportunity to go from crisis accommodation into affordable housing and into education or work. Surely there can be policies made around that? Once the homeless see that people think they’re worth it they will start to believe it too, and they will do well. Reducing homelessness will also reduce mental health issues and addiction.
What has the reaction from the homeless community been to the BBQs?
It’s always amazing to see the homeless and people in need come to our homeless BBQ because the first thing you notice is the absence of real greed – we have a truck load of clothes that they can get for free and yet they will only take what they need. You see, homeless don’t want to carry more than they have to. We have our volunteer workers eating the same food as the homeless, sitting on the same bench talking, the homeless feel more part of the community and yes, for many it rubs off, and they start to get back on their feet.

Do you have a story you can share of someone you have helped get back on their feet?
To be honest it’s really hard to pick one story out of thousands, but there was this guy who came to our homeless BBQ to get food and clothes, while eating I was talking to him about maybe getting on his feet, he said the biggest problem he had was getting a job with a huge gap in work history. I mentioned that there were employers at that event that may consider him if he really wanted to. To my surprise he asked if he could get some job interview clothes to wear and we went and talked to a few people. 45 minutes later he had a job starting the next day working for Dalton’s Hospitality. That afternoon we got him all the work gear he needed, money on his Go-card for travel, accommodation, and I have to say I couldn’t get him to stop hugging me and crying while saying thank you.

He turned up for work 30 minutes early and was keen to start his new job. A few days later I got a call from Dalton’s Hospitality, saying he was working out great and never stopped. He re-united with his wife and kids, and they now live together again. He had given up on himself and it only took someone to believe in him for him to believe in himself.

If people want to get involved in assisting with these events, how do they go about it?
We are always saying that these homeless BBQ’s are the community coming together to give a helping hand. So please if people would like to help out they can go to our Facebook page, contact me personally -Grant the Polite Guy 0412 190 011, or email Bernie the Polite Girl.

What are your plans for the future of the BBQs and the Polite Team? 
We’ll continue to do our homeless BBQs every eight weeks and helping on a daily basis. But this is just the beginning as we are looking to helping people in Sydney and even starting Homeless BBQs there as well, because as we get more volunteers and support the more we accomplish, really there’s no limit.