There are over 115,000 homeless people in Australia. With the rising cost of living and level wages, the rate of homelessness rose in NSW by one-third between 2011 and 2016. WILL2LIVE is a grassroots charity operating on the streets of Sydney, hoping to make an impact on rising homelessness in the city. Charity founder and namesake Will Hawes says homelessness is a problem that is only getting worse.

Firing up the barbecue every weeknight on the corner of Pitt Street and Eddy Avenue from 6:45pm, WILL2LIVE helps those in need by distributing basic necessities including food, water, clothes and toiletries; they also offer bedding assistance, a listening ear and an open heart.

“We don’t discriminate. We’re friendly, welcoming and non-denominational,” says Will. “These people need a bit of help. It’s not much, but it makes a world of difference to them.”

Established in 2012, Will initially worked out of his mother’s garage, taking home-made sandwiches to homeless people around the city and funding the venture himself out of his Centrelink payments. Now WILL2LIVE has grown to serve up to 700 meals per week, over 200,000 meals in the last seven years.

“I suffered from substance abuse previously and without the support from my family I’d be homeless”, says Will. “The logical step was to help people who may not be as fortunate to have a support network to rely on.

Will sees a growing demand for WILL2LIVE’s services and has noticed an increase in families out on the streets. “Our nightly feeds are getting busier each week. There is also a huge misconception in society that homelessness is linked to drug abuse or mental health. This is simply not the case – homelessness can affect anyone and with a couple of bad choices, it’s quite easy to end up homeless.”

WILL2LIVE partners with corporate organisations and local businesses who help the charity make ends meet. Coca-Cola provides drinks for events, OzHarvest donates food daily, and Bakers Delight contributes 20 loaves of fresh bread each week for the nightly barbeques. WILL2LIVE encourages corporates, businesses and teams to get involved and help their local community.

“We’d like to invite people to donate their time or contribute financially. Even just $15 a month goes a long way to helping our cause: feeding 36 people, buying 48 bottles of water, or providing 9 pairs of clean socks. We have a great volunteer community and can always use an extra pair of hands,” says Will. $15 is the equivalent of only four cups of coffee a month and all donations are tax deductable.

A big part of WILL2LIVE is establishing good relationships and rapport with the homeless, driven by Will’s personal commitment, honesty and reliability. “We aim to give these people the respect and dignity everyone deserves regardless of social status. If it’s pouring rain I’ll be here. They know that,” he says.

“The most important thing I’ve learnt in the last seven years is that we are all equal. Seeing their gratitude and the level of respect they have for both myself and the volunteers is incredibly rewarding. At the end of the day, we just want to make sure that everybody on the street has access to a variety of healthy food on a daily basis.”

WILL2LIVE’s three-year vision is to expand its reach across Sydney and establish in regional areas of NSW. Its five-year plan is to operate across Australia.

Source: WILL2LIVE