Homeless for a week to save Toowoomba's soup kitchen
WHERE am I going to sleep tonight?
Toowoomba's Basement Soup Kitchen co-ordinator Nat Spary knows what it's like to ask this question each day, having spent many nights in his late teens living under a bridge.
To save Toowoomba's only soup kitchen, which he runs with his wife Tiff, Mr Spary will give up his warm bed and spend a week, homeless, on Toowoomba's frost-bitten streets.
He won't be doing it alone. Rosies - Friends on the Street branch co-ordinator Jon Martlew also wanted to do something personally to help the homeless.
"I'm lucky to have a family and a home and a good job, and it's difficult to comprehend what it would be like to be homeless," Mr Martlew said.
"I'm doing this to help myself relate to many of the people Rosies works with, but also raise public awareness for the issue of homelessness and raise funds for Rosies.
"I know in a week I will get only a snapshot, but it's going to help.
"Then I found out Nat had been homeless, and I could learn from him."
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Mr Spary aims to raise $100,000 to save the kitchen which has been open since 1993 and provides Toowoomba's needy with lunch as well as free clothing, legal services and medical needs.
It costs about $50,000 a year to run and has relied on the support of local businesses, churches, schools and other organisations.
It has received no government funding,
In the past three years, donations have dropped off and the Sparys have been forced to consider closing it down, cutting off a service used by about 50 people a day.
So the two dads are swapping lives with the people they serve to raise funds and awareness for what Mr Spary describes as an "invisible problem in Toowoomba".
"It's largely hidden in Toowoomba. But there are whole families sleeping in their car, others are couch surfing or sleeping in abandoned buildings," Mr Spary said.
"The theme of this year is to 'step up to end homelessness' and this is my way of stepping up.
"We wanted to bring awareness into our community about the homelessness issue."
Mr Spary first left home at 15 and lived under a bridge and on the streets in New South Wales until he moved to Toowoomba at the age of 20.
"I left home because I just didn't feel safe there. I was still going to school but I slept under a bridge. Then I moved to Toowoomba to get off drugs," he said.
"I discovered this place (the kitchen) and came here daily. I found faith and got my life on track."
So how will Homeless for a Week work?
"From that Monday (at the launch at Bell St), we will stay as we are. We've been given clothes from St Vinnies and a street swag and will live like a homeless person all day and all night," Mr Spary said.
"We can only eat at the soup kitchen or find vouchers for food. We'll have to find somewhere to sleep, no matter the weather.
"The challenges are endless for a homeless person - where do you go to shower, where do you go to the bathroom at 11 at night, will people just walk past?"
Homeless for a Week is happening during National Homeless Prevention Week, August 3-9.
It will be launched on Monday, August 3, the first day of National Homeless Prevention Week, at a barbecue expo in the Bell St mall.
For more details, find Homeless for a Week on Facebook.
HOW TO HELP
- Donate via direct debit to Toowoomba City Care Inc - The BASE
- BSB: 034221 Account Number: 301662
- Cheques can be made out to the BASE.
- Cheques or cash can be dropped off to 10 Neil Street, Toowoomba or posted to PO Box 2216, Toowoomba 4350.
- Or donate via the website: www.homelessforaweek.com.au
- Follow Nat's campaign on his Facebook page, Homeless for a Week.