Emmanuel College students help homeless survive winter in Melbourne

SELFLESS: Emmanuel College students Anh Dang, 14, Ella Hassell, 15, Brianna Smith, 15, and Courtney Brown, 15, are part of the school's Young Vinnies Group. Picture: Jessica Howard.
SELFLESS: Emmanuel College students Anh Dang, 14, Ella Hassell, 15, Brianna Smith, 15, and Courtney Brown, 15, are part of the school's Young Vinnies Group. Picture: Jessica Howard.

A group of volunteer students are helping to keep Melbourne’s homeless clean and cosy this winter.

Emmanuel College’s Warrnambool Young Vinnies Group has distributed toiletries and warm clothes to people living on the streets of Melbourne.

Project coordinator and teacher John O’Sullivan said year eight to 10 students set up tables at Federation Square and distributed bags of hygiene essentials donated by the school community.  

Mr O’Sullivan said there were also donations of winter clothes with some students’ grandmothers hand-knitting scarves and socks.

During the project, students visited St Mary’s House of Welcome where they made afternoon tea for visitors at the drop-in centre.

“We’ve found that the homeless people are very grateful,” Mr O’Sullivan said. 

“Some share their story and when offered clothing and food and toiletries, they only take what they need.” 

Student Courtney Brown, 15, said the project gave her a new perspective on life. 

“It’s a good opportunity to see what homeless people actually go through,” she said.

“It makes you realise how you lucky you are and to remember to not take things for granted.” 

The Young Vinnies Group was separated into three groups of 12 students, with the final group set to visit Melbourne next month. 

Mr O’Sullivan said an extension of the project would see students camp at the school overnight on Friday, July 27, to experience what some people go through when living on the streets. 

“They’ll get first-hand experience of the coldness and what it’s like to be homeless,” he said.

 “We will also have teachers pretending to be council or the police and we will tell the students to keep moving every hour or so. 

“The students will literally have to pick up their bedding and find somewhere else to go, which is one of the big problems experienced by homeless people today.” 

The Young Vinnies Group has worked closely with the Big Umbrella Foundation, a volunteer organisation committed to the principle that every person should live free from poverty and exploitation.