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Collaborative effort brings masks to Melbourne’s homeless

Chelsea residents sew masks (10).JPG

At first glimpse it might be hard to see what a retirement village resident from Queensland’s central coast has in common with someone living rough in Melbourne.

The clue is in the face mask.

For Melbourne people who are at risk of homelessness or living rough, accessing face masks to meet COVID-19 directives and reduce the risk of infection has been a critical issue.

Bolton Clarke’s Homeless Persons Program (HPP) teams have been working to solve the problem in partnership with three of the organisation’s Queensland retirement villages, CWA members and Masks for Mates.

So far, village residents and CWA members have sewn 550 reusable masks which have been donated to the HPP for distribution to clients in need.

Program Manager Mary-Anne Rushford said the project had brought a smile for nurses and clients alike after the introduction of compulsory masks created anxiety for many disadvantaged and marginalised people.

“Many of our clients were concerned that they would be fined if they didn’t have access to masks,” she said.

“Our nurses always appreciate having something practical and necessary to give out to clients and the reusable face masks have been very much needed. They have been greatly appreciated by the clients who have received them.”

Bolton Clarke clients Brian and Eden were some of the first to receive one of the donated reusable masks.

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“I don't really like wearing masks, but at least this one looks good and keeps me safe,” said Eden.

“This has been a great collaboration between Masks for Mates, the CWA and from Bolton Clarke residents in our Maryborough, Mackay and Bribie Island retirement villages,” Ms Rushford said.

“It’s so great to have the support from our retirement village residents in Queensland – and to know that they are thinking about our program team and clients in Melbourne.”

Bolton Clarke Retirement Village Manager Shelley Fisk said that it was nice to be able to contribute in such a practical way.

“When we heard that Melbourne’s homeless were struggling to get masks we thought ‘here’s something we can do to help.’ I printed out the instructions and two of our craftier ladies brought out their sewing machines,” she said.

Village resident Norma Leach, who lives at Bolton Clarke’s Chelsea retirement village in Maryborough, was one of the women making masks and said that being able to contribute was very satisfying.

“It’s good to know that someone is getting an advantage from it,” she said. “It must be so hard for them down there – especially because it’s gone on so long. I’m pleased that we can help.”

In addition to masks, the Bolton Clarke nurses are supplying other items including beanies and scarves to their clients.

If you would like to learn more about or support Bolton Clarke’s Homeless Persons Program, please visit this page.