Wollongong homeless plead for food, drinks

Maria Dolingo and Amanda Bridgett, from My Place cafe, have homeless people asking for coffee or food. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR
Maria Dolingo and Amanda Bridgett, from My Place cafe, have homeless people asking for coffee or food. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

At least 70 people are sleeping rough on Wollongong streets every night, and CBD cafes and restaurants have revealed they are regularly approached by homeless people begging for food.

As Australian Homeless Person's Week draws to a close, Maria Dolingo, of the My Place cafe on Crown Street, said she got up to 10 people a week asking for a hot meal or drink.

"People might come in and ask for a coffee, or if we have anything left over," Ms Dolingo said.

"It happens quite often. We had a lady come in a few days ago, she only had a sleeping bag with her, so we gave her a few coffees," said staff member Amanda Bridgett.

Gabby Gigliotti, manager of Gigi's Restaurant on Market Street, said her establishment was also regularly approached for help.

"We get people coming in once a week," she said.

"They ask for anything leftover, anything warm."

Ms Gigliotti said the restaurant was approached mostly in the daytime, with a different person each time asking for food, and staff had seen homeless people asking for food in other establishments on Corrimal Street.

"You don't usually walk down the street and see the homeless, but the problem is getting bigger," she said.

Julie Mitchell, of Wollongong Emergency Family Housing, said reports from her clients confirmed a minimum of 70 people sleeping on Wollongong streets every night.

"In big cities the homeless are more visible, but in Wollongong they tend to stay hidden ... you can see evidence of it, more blankets and cardboard hidden under bushes in parks," she said.

Ms Mitchell said homeless people slept in many public areas around Wollongong.

"Lots of people are sleeping in the Puckey's area, in the Kenny Street car park, or on verandahs of businesses in the city," she said. "Rangers from the council have certainly approached us about what to do with people sleeping rough. [The rangers] wanted our assistance with people who were in areas they wanted to move them on from."

The 2011 census reported almost 100 people in Wollongong were sleeping rough, but Ms Mitchell said, in reality, the number was likely much higher.

"So much homelessness is hidden, I don't think the census picks up anywhere near the real number," she said.

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