As we head into the last month of winter we have just had a brave number of students participate in our annual Winter Sleep Out and Winter Appeal. We give thanks to all participants who took part in the 'Winter Sleep Out', an act of solidarity in our own backyards with those who are homeless and sleeping rough in Geelong.

The Year 10 students have been immersed in our Touchstone of Justice and Solidarity in their Religious education classes, exploring the issues and social media interpretations about homelessness in society, focusing specifically on the local implication here in Geelong. This week the students reflected on these issues from a different lens than the secular in their annual Renewal and Wellbeing Days. How are we called to respond? How can we treat all of our neighbours with dignity, the way we would expect to be treated? They explored how we can all be compassionate neighbours in our community and build strength in those around us who are weakened by unfair circumstances and injustices. The students prepared to act, firstly by reflecting in a prayerful liturgy focusing on the parable of The Good Samaritan and presented symbols to set the scene for their call to action.

…when a Samaritan on a journey came upon him, he looked at him and had compassion. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him…Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

“The one who showed him mercy,” replied the expert in the law.

Then Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 25)

We presented a ‘Cross’ to represent our Catholic value of compassion.

The cross is the most central and sacred of the symbols of Christianity.

A symbol of hope and strength to many and a reminder that we all have our crosses to bear at different times in our life journey and we are called to show compassion to those who we journey with.

We presented a ‘key’ to represent opportunity and access to a better life. The key that disrupts the cycle of homelessness can come in many forms. Keys are the services that people turn to, the donations of practical items, the volunteers that reach out to those in need. The care shown to others gives hope that these metaphorical keys will one day transform into one that opens the door to a more secure and safe life.

We presented a ‘Sleeping Bag’ to represent safety, comfort and warmth. It’s that time again. Winter is still here and sadly, every year there are more and more people experiencing homelessness and sleeping on the streets. A sleeping bag can literally save a life.

As the closing song played we invited students to sit and reflect on how, as a St Joseph's student, they can live lives in service of others. How might they build strength in the vulnerable and assist them in breaking the shackles of homelessness.

Thanks to Belinda Milverton our Faith Development Coordinator, for her extensive planning to allow these two Renewal Days to take place so successfully, especially by coordinating the Year 10 Students to take action in a selection of the following opportunities in our local Geelong community.

Presentation from Simon Rowe the founder of the Sleep Simon decided he needed to create a place that provided safe sleep space, a place to take a breath, to stay safe and healthy until they could get back on their feet.

Cooking for the Homeless These donations will all go to those in need and will be distributed at ‘Lazarus Community Centre’

Volunteering at ‘Feed me Bellarine’ and ‘Feed me Geelong’

Lana, owner of Belly Bowls and Bellarine Catering, saw how much food she was throwing out at the end of each day. She started to package it up and distribute it to people in need. Feed Me Bellarine turns leftover food into nutritious meals and delivers to people in need across the Bellarine Peninsula.

Volunteering at Lazarus Community Centre

The Lazarus Centre is a place for people to feel safe and welcome. Somewhere where they can take a shower, wash and dry their clothes, have a light lunch, participate in activities, meet with volunteers and receive support from specialist homelessness staff. All people are welcome whether they are homeless or not.

Volunteering at the Salvation Army Thrift Shop

The thrift shop is a large opportunity shop that receives and sells second hand items to better the lives of the homeless and those in unfortunate circumstances.

Sorting the Winter Sleep Out donations

These donations will all go to those in need and will be distributed at Lazarus Community Centre.

“Give to the poor in handfuls.” Blessed Edmund Rice