THEY may be but a humble Country Women's Association, but the ladies at the Lismore, Derrinallum CWA branch are tackling the big issues in town.
For over three years the group has been making and delivering toiletry bags to local police stations, hospitals, schools and community centres.
The bags are then delivered to women fleeing domestic violence, the homeless, schoolchildren and hospital patients.
The group recently received $500 in funding from Corangamite Shire's quick response grant program to help them continue the thankless work.
"We make them out of rubber-backed curtain materials to make them waterproof," secretary Pam Hovey said.
"We haven't got much in the way of funds and usually make about 20 bags at a time, but with the money we'll be able to do so much more this time.
"We fill them with the essentials, so if someone goes into hospital unexpectedly or a woman is fleeing domestic violence they have the necessities."
The homemade bags contain:
- A toothbrush
- A cake of soap and a plastic container
- Toothbrush holder
"It costs around $8 to make each bag. We buy all the essentials and are always looking for ways to do it at cost-price," Ms Hovey said.
These humble CWA heroes have tapped into a bigger problem in the south-west.
While those experiencing homelessness may not be sleeping rough on the street in the same way one would see in Melbourne, it doesn't mean they are not there.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2016 Census data revealed homelessness is happening in every south-west suburb.
The number of people reported homeless at the time of the census:
- Warrnambool: 148
- Colac: 53
- Mortlake: six
- Terang: 11
- Camperdown: 13
- Cobden: 21
- Port Campbell: 21
- Koroit: 16
- Port Fairy: 16
- Portland: 28
- Heywood: 10
- Hamilton: 10
SalvoConnect Western have exhausted their government funding by almost triple and have seen 622 new cases in Warrnambool, 215 in Hamilton and 248 in Portland this financial year alone.
Regional manager Lindsay Stow said initiatives like the CWA's go a long way for those facing homelessness.
"We do have a small rough sleeper population but they're not as visible as they are in a lot of other places, a large proportion of the homeless population in this part of the region stay in emergency accommodation or with family and friends temporarily," Mr Stow said.
"Over the winter months people tend to lean on resources to get them through the really cold periods.
"We do get government funding to operate our programs, but that doesn't include money for those additional support items like toiletries so we're always looking to groups like the CWA who provide wonderful support to provide those things to give out to people.
"It's wonderful when a group has the compassion and the heart to want to reach out."
Fleeing domestic violence
When women and children flee domestic violence, often it's just with the clothes on their back, said Detective Senior Constable Jim Beaumont of the Warrnambool Family Violence Investigation Unit.
Care packs like those made by the CWA go a long way for women and children who are fleeing violent situations.
"We see about 135 cases of family and domestic violence a month across Warrnambool, Hamilton and Portland," Detective Senior Constable Beaumont said.
"Care packs are so important and something we use. When people flee a situation like that the first things that are neglected are the little things like toothbrushes and soap.
"They are very helpful and thoughtful."
750 family violence incidences were recorded in Warrnambool last year, up 23 per cent on the year before according to latest Crime Statistics Agency data.
There were 164 incidences in Corangamite (down 18 per cent), 100 in Moyne (down eight per cent), 286 in Glenelg (down 20 per cent) and 335 across Colac-Otway (up 10 per cent).
Emma House has been the primary provider of support to women and children fleeing domestic violence in the south-west for the last 40 years.
"Often women and children are fleeing with very little and often they flee the family home in a crisis, therefore they present to us with very little in terms of belongings, clothing and toiletries," Ruth Isbel, Executuve Officer of Emma House said.
"We do rely heavily on the generosity of organisations for the donation of material and household items.
"Last year Emma House provided service to around 1500 women in the south-west, and that's without counting their associated children."
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