Warm hearts help in winter

Gavin Smith is helping the homeless stay warm, and you can help too.

As winter’s chill begins to bite, spare a thought for those who are doing it tough.

Cold days and freezing nights make life difficult for those who can’t afford to turn on their heaters – or who don’t have a heater or as much as a roof over their heads.

With vulnerable people in mind, Soupee man Gavin Smith is again running his annual blanket appeal.

“Anything basically that will keep you warm; jackets, coats, beanies, gloves, socks, blankets and sleeping bags and even baby clothing,” Gavin said.

“In Upwey there’s a shop called Mr Fixit and I use him as a depot, so people can bring stuff and drop it off.

“I throw it all in my van, sort it and then I get to disperse it to different places … to homeless people in the Dandenong’s right through to the city and St Kilda.

That appeal has kept Gavin very busy and each week his van is filled to the brim with all sorts of warm items.

“I receive items from places like holy fools and just people calling in to soupees on a Friday afternoon. About 3pm onwards until 5pm is really busy and I’m trying to serve soup and people are bringing bags and bags of stuff which is really marvellous.”

In late 2018, the Upwey community launched a GoFundMe project to raise funds for a new van for Gavin – a well needed upgrade on his old hatchback.

“The van has been a real boon and helped me so much,” he said.

“Before I had a Peugeot hatchback and I would fill it up to the roof, I couldn’t see out of it, but that’s no longer an issue.”

“Now I’ve got the van I’m able to do some major deliveries.”

Speaking about Homelessness Gavin said the rate has risen disproportionately in areas with a shortage of affordable private rental housing and emergency housing.

“In the city, suburbs and out into the Yarra Valley there are homeless people everywhere.”

“It is so serious and it is getting worse.”

Donations of new and gently used coats and blankets can be dropped off at Mr Fixit in Upwey or to Soupees on a Friday from 3pm onwards. For more information go to the Facebook page Soupees.