After an "intense" year for the Wollongong Homeless Hub, the community has rallied to donate thousands of dollars worth of food and other items to help those who will be doing it tough this Christmas.
Among the beneficiaries was Steve*, 65, a long-term rough sleeper throughout the Illawarra who is currently staying in the Hub's crisis accommodation.
Steve collected some food and other items on Friday.
When the Mercury asked what his Christmas would have been like without the Hub's assistance, he gave a thumbs-down and said, "ratsh--".
"If they (the Hub) can help you, they'll do it," he said.
"I wouldn't have had anywhere else that I could possibly have drawn on to get (essential food and supplies) that I needed like this."
The Homeless Hub recently ran its '12 Weeks of Xmas' hamper campaign, whereby the organisation called for community donations to help provide for those who will be doing it tough this Christmas.
"We've had an amazing community response, and we're looking at putting 200 hampers together for people in crisis and transitional accommodation," Mandy Booker, manager of Wollongong Emergency Family Housing and the Wollongong Homeless Hub said.
"We have family hampers, and hampers for people in crisis accommodation."
The hampers included items such as food, toiletries, presents and gift cards, with many clients collecting their items on Friday.
The Hub staff were also busy compiling packs for rough sleepers, which will be distributed on Christmas Eve.
Ms Booker said they'd had just over $2500 worth of gift cards donated, and thousands of dollars worth of food had come in.
"The response has been overwhelming at a time when we know a lot of the community are doing it tough themselves," she said.
"We want to send a big thank you to the community, because we couldn't do it without them."
Ms Booker said 2020 had been a "very intense" year for the Hub.
"We've been under a lot of pressure this year, and I'm really concerned for client well-being and staff well-being, because it really has been a big year for us," she said.
"We've stayed frontline and face-to-face all the way through, and that's put a lot of pressure and demand on the service."
Ms Booker said demand on their services had been greater than ever in the lead-up to Christmas.
She said over the past six months, they had seen a 42 per cent increase in people needing support from their services.
"And even this month alone we've seen that increase again by at least another five to ten per cent," she said.
"The demand has really grown, and we're really concerned about the next six months that is about to be ahead of people, due to things like welfare payments going back to pre-COVID levels.
"And people are losing their rental accommodation because of the demand, and the vacancy rates in rentals is very low, so people can't even get into rentals at the moment.
"(The Christmas appeal is) really about making sure people have a little bit of hope going into the new year, to know there is support there and we can really make a difference in the new year. "
On Christmas Eve, the Homeless Hub will host a community lunch for anyone sleeping rough or in crisis accommodation.
On Christmas Day, they will host a meal for in-house clients.
*Surname withheld by request
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