BIG READ: The women at the forefront of our homeless crisis
GAIL Mole dreams of the community coming together to provide a facility where the region's homeless can sleep at night.
At the forefront of homelessness in Bundaberg, Ms Mole hears every story from the teenage boy needing a hand up to older community members struggling to make ends meet.
She wants to take them all in, care for and protect them. It's the inner mother in her that drives her not to turn a single soul away.
Seated in Angels Community Group's Walla St store - which stocks discount groceries and second-hand goods - Ms Mole says she often wonders where the homeless go when it's pouring rain and storming outside.
Some cases really make her wonder what's happening in the lucky country that so many can fall through the cracks.
"We had a girl living out of her car at the river," she says, surrounded by vintage decorations and lively orange walls that have seen upwards of 40 people a morning, six days a week, seeking company and something to eat.
"This is Australia for God's sake," she said.
"We really need to be looking for a solution."
A handmade clock on the wall, framed by quaint teacups and saucers, adds a warm and homely feel to the only homely place many have to return to every day.
Angels Community Group formed in 2015 with the goal of helping locals in the community and their service has become a safety net for those in financial hardship and without a place to call their own.
The service receives no government funding and is set to expand in the new year because the demand for help is as high as ever.
While the JobKeeper wage subsidy will continue into the new year in various forms, some will see their income go back down to $650 a fortnight in the first few months of 2021.
Ms Mole says the charity is bracing for a heightened demand.
"Once these Centrelink double payments stop we're going to have three times the people," she said.
"It will drain just about all of our resources."
When not providing food and company, the charity gives everyday items like clothes, kitchenware and furniture for those lucky enough to secure a roof over their head.
Ms Mole says she believes the answer lies in greater community awareness, less government red tape and more funding.
A greater understanding of mental health would help, too.
"I don't think we have a lot of understanding of mental health," she said.
Another barrier many face in seeking help is the feeling of shame, a stigma Ms Mole works around by leaving some free items outside the store for whoever needs them.
Her wishlist for helping the local homeless community includes a place for them to sleep as well as some form of shower facility.
"Our big dream would be to have sleeping pods like in America," she said.
Ms Mole says local politicians have been a big help to their group, but said now was the time for everyone to band together for those going without.
She hopes a disused building or some other area could be designated as a place of safety during the night.
"I don't understand why in Australia we have single mothers with four kids sleeping in a car," Ms Mole said.
"I really dream about having sleeping pods.
"A hot meal and a nice clean bed can make all the difference."
The crew at Angels explain that they're run off their feet, but their smiles and positivity is evident as they serve customers, chat with clients and get some of the most important work in the community done.
A mound of donated clothing forms a small mountain behind the counter, but they'll need each and every item whether it's to pass it along or to sell for money that will fund vital services.
"Everything we get into the area we have to fund for ourselves," Ms Mole says.
And everything at Angels has a story to it.
As Ms Mole posed for a photo for the photo in this article, she explained the story behind a fruit and vegetable table selling fresh produce at discounted rates.
Many had been asking for farm fresh produce, and so they set up their farm produce table, including a charming statue of a cow and a smiling carrot doing his best to bring a little joy to shoppers facing hard times.
And as times get tougher, the crew know they'll work harder, but it's what they know they need to do.
"We would never, ever turn anyone away," Ms Mole says.
To donate money to Angels, use the following bank account information:
Account name: Oldies Angels Inc
BSB: 633 000
Account number: 170 151 200
Crunching numbers and a sleep-out for a cause
There are 346 homeless people in Bundaberg alone, according to Community Lifestyle Support's Jodi Morris.
Like Ms Mole, Ms Morris has big dreams for improving the lives of the local homeless population, she even has a saying - "never look down on someone unless you're helping them up".
Lives are busy and it's become easy to overlook those in need, but not on Ms Morris's watch.
"Can you imagine how great the world would be if everyone would help just one person," she said.
"I'd just love human kindness to come back. There's no empathy anymore, the world's become so fast-paced we don't have time to support or care."
Ms Morris has joined with Angels Community Group to camp out for a cause on the night of October 30 to raise funds for backpack beds that will give homeless locals a covered, weatherproof bed they can easily carry around with them.
The fundraising camp-out has attracted interest from community members and Burnett MP Stephen Bennett.
The community has started chipping in money for the beds, which cost $220.
It's one project Ms Morris believes can restore a little dignity to those who have nothing.
It's a tough time with Covid-19's impacts weighing heavily on some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
Many homeless services have had to cut capacity in order to adhere to health regulations, leading many more to go without.
Ms Morris recently completed a Diploma of Community Development, which led her to a greater understanding of just how big an issue homelessness really is.
"After doing a lot of research I decided to create an event to assist the homeless, and so the beginnings for Camp Out for a Cause," she said.
Homelessness, for too long, has been left in the shadows, further complicating the issue because many people don't even know where to turn when they need help.
"It doesn't discriminate," Ms Morris said.
"It takes away your dignity as a human being."
Ms Morris said it didn't matter if people gave just $10 or $20, they'd be making a difference to local lives.
"I just want people to know that it's helping to change the world even if it's just a little bit," she said.
"I just want people to care about each other again."
To donate towards buying backpack beds for the homeless, use these bank account details:
Account name: Oldies Angels Inc
BSB: 633 000
Account number: 170 151 203