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.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Polite Team Needs Your Help

If there is one thing we are good at and where we get good results it must be asking help for others. We have asked help for individual people who needed basic furniture, groceries, cleaning products, job-interview clothes, children's toys, you name it, and people are always so generous and come up with things that these people in need really need... We have asked help for our BBQs for the Homeless and Others in Need, and people gladly chipped in, contributing to and towards the food, donating clothes, shoes, toiletries and what have you. We have been so touched to see the community coming together in more amazing ways than one. We couldn't help others as we do without your help!

For me, this was the most touching example of the community coming together for the homeless and others in need: for our Christmas BBQ we did a callout on Facebook for presents for the children at the BBQ, and this was the result: a bus full of carefully wrapped Christmas presents for the less fortunate... I'm still crying happy tears when I think about it... 

Asking help for others is easy. Asking help for ourselves is often a lot more difficult though, but everybody needs to do it sometimes because that's just how life is. All of us have had times where we have been the givers of help, whereas at other times we have received help.

As you know, our charity Signal Flare began as a dream of Grant the Polite Guy. Starting out organizing BBQs for the Homeless and Others in Need when he was himself homeless and finding these BBQs to be hugely successful, he began to think of ways in which he could help disadvantaged people even more. He thought about starting a charity because a charity could help a lot more people in many more ways than a single individual can. Grant's BBQs grew, I came on board and Grant's BBQs became our BBQs which grew even more, and we became the Polite Team. And with the help of a wonderful, dedicated group of people Grant's dream, the charity Signal Flare, became a reality. We are a registered not for profit charity and a Deductible Gift Recipient, meaning that any donations of $2 or more are tax deductible.

So far, we have had many successful BBQs and where possible we have helped individual people on a one-on-one basis, quite a lot of them actually. We have done plenty of Pies and Cokes - Grant's term for sitting down with someone who is doing it tough, buying him or her something to eat and drink and having a chat to see how we can help. All of the Pies and Cokes, some of the help, and all of the fuel used for helping people have come out of Grant's and my own pockets because Signal Flare simply does not have the funds yet. Imagine the possibilities and how much help we can provide once Signal Flare is more financial!

Between now and the end of May, Signal Flare's major recurring must-pay costs are due, and Signal Flare just doesn't have the money in the bank... To give you an idea of what is due:

Post Office Box Services: $408, due 15 April
RACQ renewal: $358, due 14 May
Public Liability Insurance: $833, due 26 May

If you would like to donate towards one of these fees, towards petrol, towards our rego fees ($771 due in August) or generally to help Signal Flare grow so that we can help more people in more ways or if you know anyone who would, here are our bank details:
Bank of Queensland
BSB: 124-001
Account Number: 22066259
Account Name: Signal Flare Inc
As I said before, it's easier to ask help for other people than to ask it for our own charity: it feels like we should be giving help, not asking for it. Yet we find ourselves in a spot where we need to do this if we want to continue to help people and expand on the helping, and we know that the help we give is badly needed. All donations big and small do make a difference. If you consider donating, please remember your donations of $2 or more will be tax deductible. Please add a reference outlining whether your donation is towards our GPO Box fee (due the soonest), RACQ, PLI, or other, and remember to notify us of your donation on so we can send you a receipt for your tax purposes. Thank you so much for your consideration.
Thank you for reading this blog post, and have a wonderful weekend.

Bernie the Polite Girl for the Polite Team

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Another awesome BBQ for the Homeless and Others in Need done well

What an awesome day it was, this past Sunday 15 March! I just want to share the day in words and photos alike, and I hope it doesn't make this blog post too fragmented... Blame my enthusiasm if it does. Just keep reading till the very bottom and you'll be right :-) What I am so happy about is that we had our BBQ for the Homeless and Others in Need at Musgrave Park last Sunday, and everything about it was just perfect. Oh I am in love! With human beings :-) Seriously, we all know that people can be nasty creatures who can and do inflict a lot of hurt upon each other, but hey, when you get to do the things that we do, and especially at events like these, you get to see the beauty of human beings on a regular basis too.

Volunteers preparing lunch for many with care

And Sunday was one of those times where human nature shone! It even started before Sunday. More than at previous events, we asked volunteers to contribute to and towards the food, and the response was astonishing and heart warming. People just loved to buy lots of bread, oranges, apples and water melons, and donated dollars towards the main food. Just heart warming to see how many people wanted to give to help the marginalized in our community. Quite a few people said "I can't afford much, but I can afford a little bit", they gave what they could afford to give, and together we got something truly amazing. People enthusiastically assisted by dropping off and picking up things, giving other people rides to and from the BBQ, arriving well before 8am to help set up from scratch and staying until the last table was loaded back into the trailer. This truly was the community coming together to cook up something very very unique for those less fortunate. And even quite a few of those less fortunate turned up early to help, all in the best of moods. Really, people who are sceptic about homelessness and homeless people should come to our events and they would change their minds!

Many guests came to enjoy a day in the sun, share a meal, take things with them that would make life a little easier, and soak up the great, relaxed vibe

And our guests came in large numbers. I had been a little worried about it before, because until people start to turn up you don't know if they actually will. The week prior to the BBQ I had spent many hours handing out flyers to people on the street, at Common Ground, Pindari hostel, Ozcare and several other crisis accommodation places, but like I said, until people come on the day you don't know if they will.
The very first flyer I handed out went to Raymond, one of my mates from the City, who was very proud of having his photo taken. He was very thrilled when I asked his permission to share the photo on social media :-)

But I needed not worry. Steady streams of people found their way to Musgrave Park, some came walking from New Farm or even further away. Clothes, shoes, toiletries, children's toys and other things found proud new owners and lunch was shared. More importantly, our guests and volunteers alike soaked up the atmosphere of friendship, of social inclusion, of friendly chatter. I walked up to one of our arriving guests who looked a bit lost. I just went to say g'day, and before we realized it we were in a big lively conversation and he didn't look lost anymore. I keep saying it, people thrive when you give them some of your time. And the best thing is, anyone can do it.  It doesn't cost much to make someone's day.

Malcolm, one very happy man at the end of the day, carrying a big bag full of things that would make his life just that little bit easier. And a positive buzz around the tables with donations.

I am sure I am also speaking for Grant the Polite Guy when I say I would like to thank some awesome charities/organizations/businesses without whose support our BBQ wouldn't have been as brilliant as it was.

Jerome Dalton and Dalton Hospitality, thank you so much for your dedication and generosity over the years. Serving homeless people and others in need with wonderful food and drinks the way you do and with the genuine intention to help testifies to your grace. You and the crew always turn up with huge cheerful smiles that stay there the whole time and that, believe me, make other people smile as well.

Jerome Dalton and Dalton Hospitality, thank you!!!

Dana from Drug Arm, thank you so much for your long-time support. Whether we are in Brisbane, Caboolture or Ipswich, to name a few, no distance is too long for you to drive Drug Arm's outreach van so you can serve everyone who turns up at our BBQs. And whoever we are, whether we are volunteers, guests or organizers, we all are just people who equally enjoy your unlimited free coffee, tea, cordial and biscuits. And thank you very much for spreading our flyers on your rounds with the outreach van to help make people aware of our upcoming BBQs. Such a quiet achiever you are!

Thank you, Dana and Drug Arm!!!

Knitting for Brisbane's Needy, you guys are amazing, and thank you for turning up at our BBQs each time over the years, handing out endless amounts of knitted blankets, jumpers, beanies, socks, gloves, teddies and more to those who need them. All your items are knitted by hand and with love, so people really do get unique and individual pieces. You have kept countless homeless people warm on the streets over many cold nights.

Knitting for Brisbane's Needy, thank you!!!

Ipswich Hospital Foundation, thank you for lending us your tables and marquees over the years, and even generously providing us with your trailer to transport them in. You make our BBQs so much more doable...

Ipswich Hospital Foundation, thank you!!!

Care Packs for Brisbane's Homeless, thank you so much for the beautiful toiletry packs you put together with so much care and eye for detail and for leaving them aside for our BBQs - I know you serve a lot of people.

Thank you, Care Packs for Brisbane's Homeless!!!

Open Minds, it was wonderful to have you at our BBQ with your information, water bottles etc and cheerful smiles. We loved having you and hope we'll have you again! And thank you for picking up the donations from Care Packs for Brisbane's Homeless.

Thank you, Open Minds!!!

Ozharvest and SecondBite, your support behind the scenes working with Dalton Hospitality over the years has been very much appreciated. Thank you so much for donating to us again this time.

Thank you, Ozharvest (photo courtesy of Dalton Hospitality)
 Thank you, SecondBite!

Connected Inc, our new partnership feels like a new adventure. Your storage of the donations we receive, our working together on BBQ day, it was all just awesome. Lovely to meet the crew! And your denim toiletry bags that are also handbags and that fold out to be blankets were one of our definite hits!

Thank you, Connected Inc!!!

Delta Force Medics Australia, thank you so much for your dedication to everyone's wellbeing at our BBQs, for checking blood pressure, providing first aid and referrals for further medical assistance to everyone. Hope to see you at our next event.

Delta Force Medics Australia, thank you!!!

Everybody, this BBQ was a truly wonderful event on all levels and with the great input of everyone. I can't thank you enough, and that actually goes for both of us: THE POLITE TEAM CAN'T THANK YOU ENOUGH. And actually it goes even bigger: SIGNAL FLARE CAN'T THANK YOU ENOUGH!

We are so proud of the great Signal Flare community we have around us, because you are the people who make it happen with us. On our own we couldn't do as much, but together we can move mountains and make every BBQ wonderful.

We are looking forward to our next BBQ. Thank you for reading, and watch this space for more info!

Written by Bernie the Polite Girl for the Polite Team

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Storm Damage.

Okay people I have an SOS.

A lot of people got effected by the bad storms/weather we have had in the last few days and I've been contacted by too many people for help, which is good because I get to help more people but bad because I'm only one guy.

But I'm writing this post about a lady hitting hard times that I have helped in the past and truly is still an inspiration to me and I'll tell you why.

This lady worked all her life as a nurse helping others and even spending huge amounts of unpaid hours with patients because she is that sort of person. One day she had a heart attack, soon after going to hospital for deep depression and losing her partner of about 14yrs meaning she was left with the house payments and two kids to look after.

The depression took a huge part of her life away and it wasn't long before she lost her valued job which was hard because it was one of the things that gave her joy.

Now I'm sad to say that the depression got worst with the fact of everything going down hill and her Centrelink payments didn't even cover her mortgage repayments let alone schooling and food etc.

Now don't get me wrong this lady and I have had many of sit-downs (Pie and Cokes) with and I very much understand why she has went without so much to juggle everything around to keep her home.

This lady called to say she was in trouble, the storms we had over the last few days has caused serious inside/outside water damage to her home, I hate to say this but something happening to a person already going through such hard times is like pushing them over the edge of even worst depression.

This is a good person, yes with a few problems, but a person.

I know after this she is going to sell the house for a lost I believe.

My SOS is for things to make her home a home. I have used all my money to help others already this weekend going through tough times already. But she is only asking for a few things.

Undercoat paint / waterproof $72.90

Two light fittings needing replaced $19.90 each

couple of trailer loads of soil or dirt because of storm damage

13 metres of guttering.

Cleaning products.

I'm hoping some of you might be able to do one of these, as I said this is a good person just going through very tough times and I'd like to show her that the community is standing by her to help because that's the Aussie way.

To help please call me on 0412 190 011.

Thank you very much for reading my blog and I hope you have a great day. If you like my writing and things I do please donate using the donation button.

Grant the Polite Guy

Grant Richards

0412 190 011

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Shoplifting with Heart

I normally write uplifting posts, but today something happened and even though I have seen this before I find myself fighting back the tears all morning and as I write this.

It’s hard to start writing this because everything happened so fast, but I’ll start as I walked into the shopping centre.

It was around 8:30am and raining so I wasn’t selling my Big Issue magazines, I decided to go to my local shopping centre for a packet of smokes, food and things.

As I walked through the centre I noticed a boy walking differently, his head right down as if trying to hide while walking fast past me and heading for the exit doors, I remembered him as he was a son of a family I helped about 3 years ago with food and a double bed (if I remember right).

As he reached the glass sliding doors two men ran past me yelling for the boy to stop and caught up to him very quickly. They opened his backpack, searched and then took hold of the boy each holding and arm and walking him past me and to the shop. (I don’t want to name the store because of what happens).

Now I’m not stupid, I knew right away from what I saw he had just been caught for shoplifting. I remembered thinking what a shame the kid was younger then my little girl who is 12 year old, but I knew he came from a poor family and felt sorry for him.

I was shopping in the store when I came across one of the guys that had caught the boy, I asked “Mate I know the family I helped them a few years ago, if you don’t mind me asking what was he stealing” this guy replied “exercise books, pens and  things like that”

I have to say my mind raced a thousand miles an hour and right away I thought school had just started and he was stealing school supplies because his parents didn’t.

There was a few more words said but in the end I asked to speak to the manager talking to him.

The manager told me they were not charging him because of his age but was barring him from the store for life. I asked the manager to keep whatever he took in a bag and I would buy all of it if it was for school. Next thing I know the boy and I are talking and I asked what he took and why? In a very nice manner,  I did this because if it wasn’t for school then I’d walk away. He pulled out all these stationery supplies and said these were from him for school, but not all the items in the bag, I asked what about the other things left? What he said next made me angry and feeling so sorry for him I wanted to cry, he said “My sister and I get teased at school so I got them for her” it wasn’t just what he said it was the way he said it, he was angry, sad and embarrassed about stealing.  I couldn’t count how many times he said “sorry”.

Kids tease these kids for being poor or having well let’s just say their parents couldn’t  because of income or have some addiction and didn’t get them the same items as other kids at their school.

This broke my heart. Okay now I am tearing up as I write this.

At the time trying not to tear up I took him straight to the cashier and placed everything he tried to steal on the counter and kept telling him I’m going to get everything you need but you have to do something for me and that’s you have to do your best to get A’s on you report card. He kept thanking me and trying to convince me he was a good kid.

I’m embarrassed to write this next bit but it’ll show you all why I help people and why it brings tears writing it.

The checkout lady scanned everything and it came to a total of $63 and change, when she said that I felt so bad because I have nothing in the bank and only $57and change on me. I turned to the boy and said I didn’t have enough and I’m sorry but he would have to put a few things back. He looked very sad, but started picking items to put back, the thing that got me was he never picked one item that was for his sister.

Now you see why this is effecting me so much. I’m sorry to write such a bad posting but really if you look at it like I do it’s inspirational, this boy is teased at school for being poor and when asked to put something back he still gets everything for his sister.  This kid is an inspiration to me.

P.S Today I quit smoking.

Thank you for reading my blog and I hope you have a great day.

Grant Richards

Grant the Polite Guy

0412 190 011

Monday, January 26, 2015

How to Help Homeless

I think some or a lot of people get things wrong when thinking of helping Homeless or People in Need. I have gotten so many times people saying “I want to help, but what do I say or how should I say it?”

Bernie the Polite Girl and I just helped a girl to get on her feet in a huge way, then on the way home I got a call asking that very question in a round about way. I must say I shake my head sometimes and think how wrong this is.

Firstly I’m going to say something I say often, “Homeless People” is just words for someone going through tough times and for some or a lot they have given up on themselves , but if you take the word “Homeless” you are left with the one word “People”. The same people you could be sit next to on a bus or even someone you work with. What I’m trying to say is a lot of Homeless I’ve meet and there’s been a lot have had regular lives but something happen and they ended up in a downward spiral to become homeless.

This may sound harsh but imagine a family member hitting hard times and not asking for help or NOT getting it and become Homeless, how would you like others to see or treat them? I guess I’m saying when asking how to talk to a person that’s Homeless think about how you would talk to your best friend that hit hard times. They are people.

Now I really hope that helped and some of you will start thinking of Homeless differently.

I’m going to write about a female I meet last week, I had walked past her and to me it seemed clear she was having a really bad day, I politely asked her if she was okay and quickly started a chat about how hot the weather is, within minutes I learnt how she moved from NSW last week to escape a horrible violent relationship and had left with a small bag. I talked about different services around for her but quickly felt trust was a problem. So I did what I do best offered to buy her a cup of coffee and gave her a card with my phone number and said to call anytime she needed a friend, because we are now “Best Friends” because I was the only person she knew in Brisbane, (with a smile and joking) but before I left I said I’d help her to get on her feet as long as she helped herself as well.

She called and I was so happy that she trusted me. I called Bernie the Polite Girl straight away because everyone knows females relate to females better, it’s a girlie thing haha.

This girl is staying in a Lodge but I’m proud to say she is starting her NEW job tomorrow, Bernie and I meet up with her today all excited, we sat eating lunch while talking about her new start in life and what was next. To our surprise she said she has 20hrs a week work BUT she asked for help getting weekend work so she may get on her feet faster. This girl could have easily hit harder times being Homeless but a few coffees and a helping hand from Bernie and I things are looking awesome.

Excited about her getting a new job Bernie and I put enough money on her Go-Card to get to work, food for work and lodge, much needed toiletries including female pads which we get asked a lot for because there needed so much when needed.

Both females got excited about going clothes shopping which I put my head down and tried to hide so I not invited haha

Before Bernie and I left she kept saying thank you and what could she do to repay what we were doing, Bernie said the same she always says “When you get on your feet, like really on your feet, do the same for someone else that really needs it” I have no doubt that she will help someone else in the future after she gets on her feet.

But I haven’t told you the best part, this girl was so thankful that within the first hour of leaving I got 3 thank you texts. I have to say reading them and knowing we done good was worth all the time, money and effort helping her. I know I’ll be seeing her a lot over the next few weeks just to be there for her as a friends mostly, but I look forward to seeing her stand proud again.

Now I didn’t write this so people will think I’m awesome. I wrote this so people can see how easy it is to really make a difference to someone’s life. There is people everywhere needing help, other people’s family members.

If you want to know how to help the Homeless, here’s a great start, say “Hi”

Thank you for reading my blog and I hope you have a great day. If you like my writing or what I do to help others please donate using the donation button.

Grant Richards

Grant the Polite Guy

0412 190 011

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!!!

It's New Year's Day today, the first day of a brand new year, as yet unwritten, so everything seems possible. For a big part we have the power to shape this year for ourselves the way we want it to be, and we can only go with the flow of those things outside of our control.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about what happened to me on Christmas Day. My mum had come over to spend Christmas with me. A lovely time! On Christmas Day we travelled to the City to go to Christmas Mass, and we bumped into one of our homeless friends. I introduced mum and him to each other and we had a chat. He had a few bags around him that held all his possessions. In one of the bags he had a few chocolates, and he insisted on giving me two; one for me, one for mum. At first I did not want to accept, because I felt that since he had so few chocolates he should keep them to himself, but who am I to tell a grown man what he can and cannot give to someone else... I knew this man and I knew that he would give the shirt off his back and have nothing and he would still say he had everything he needed. Money and possessions mean nothing to him. One time a long time ago I tried to make him keep his two sleeping bags instead of giving one of them to me to give away to someone in need, and he pointed at the bags around him and said "I have my clothes, I have my sleeping bag, I don't need anything else. I have everything right here". Anyway, I accepted the chocolates he gave to me, and showed my appreciation, which put a smile on his face. He shook my hand and wished me a Merry Christmas.

In our times of greed, of focus on possession, and of "I want", the words "I want to give" are not heard often enough. This man has so little and still wants to give. Unknowingly he puts those who are more fortunate to shame... If he can give of his few possessions, why can't others with more give more? There is such a need out there...

Mum and I walked on to church, but while walking and all during the Christmas Mass I felt pretty miserable because he had given me two of his few chocolates while I had nothing to give to him. I decided to get him something to eat and a bottle of Coke after Mass (he loves his Coke!) in a convenience store because all other shops were closed. But after Mass I couldn't find him...

It really was on my mind that I had not given him anything on Christmas Day, but then things started to dawn on me due to the sweet words of others... They said that for this man, too, it had meant a lot to be able to give on Christmas Day, to be given time for a chat and to be introduced to my mum. I started to be really glad that I took the chocolates and that he did have the opportunity to give. I also started to be glad I had nothing to give to him, because for him that would have decreased the meaning of his giving. For homeless people too, Christmas can be a meaningful time, and if it is, it is really important that they can give expression to that like anyone else. They may not all have family or friends to spend Christmas with, and so bumping into someone they know, have a chat with and give some chocolates to may mean the world.

And so I have started the new year with an important lesson learnt: that for everybody, however few possessions they may have, it can be important to be able to give, and that receiving in an appropriate manner can mean so much to the giver.

Only a super short blogpost here, but we will be back with more soon! I would like to end by wishing everyone a Very Happy New Year. If you have any New Year's resolutions, I wish you the tenacity to stick to them. If you see a homeless person, please be kind. Simple eye contact, a smile or a friendly "g'day" go a very long way in making someone's day. You never know how something you say can make a huge difference and establish change for someone, give someone just that little push that is needed to turn his or her life around, if not immediately then perhaps down the track when they are ready. You can plant a seed and when it is ready to come to fruition, it will. You may or may not know when this happens, but happen it will.

All the very, very best for 2015, and if you are still on holidays, please enjoy!

Written by Bernie the Polite Girl for the Polite Team