We all know that addressing homelessness and bringing about meaningful change is complicated, arguably requiring a cross-governmental effort and serious investment in public housing. But while the homelessness crisis is perhaps not something your average punter can impact, that doesn’t mean that we can’t each make a difference.

When Richard Parker and colleagues at the Rotary Club of Melbourne were considering how best to support people experiencing homelessness four years ago, they landed on the idea of providing kits of essential items to those moving into public housing.

The kits consist of everything from a warm doona and bed linen, to crockery, saucepans and cooking utensils. Each one makes a big difference to recipients and costs Rotary less than $250.

It’s a simple, inexpensive solution to an issue many people moving into public housing must face. “If you’ve been sleeping rough or couch surfing, chances are you won’t have these items,” says Richard, who once managed a public housing agency.

Drawing from Rotary funds and now a City of Melbourne grant, Richard and a team of Rotarians periodically meet up at Kmart and fill trolleys with the best quality for value essentials they can find, eschewing online shopping so they can check the quality of each item in person.

After receiving a 5% not-for-profit discount at checkout, volunteers pack the goods into boxes donated by Wilsons Removals and deliver the kits to Launch Housing, to be allocated on a highest needs basis.

“We generally buy the same items for each kit, but when Launch asked us for a few dog kennels for recipients who wanted to take their dogs we were more than happy to purchase them,” says Richard. “It’s essential someone can take their dog with them if they have that opportunity.”

For Launch Housing, which has been supporting people experiencing homelessness in Melbourne for more than 75 years, the partnership provides much-needed practical support, says Andrew Koehrer, who works in housing support service operations at Launch’s Southbank Crisis Accommodation.

“Clients moving from crisis accommodation most often have no household items and this donation provides them with the necessities they need to start afresh, along with providing them with a sense of dignity and hope for the future,” says Andrew.

“Providing a home ready to live in can also reduce the financial burden and mental stress that starting from scratch can hold.”

6 ways you can make a difference to Melbourne’s homelessness crisis:

Stories from the neighbourhood