A new campaign to aid Perth’s homeless people has been initiated by a group of energetic young volunteers with a focus on building friendships with those less fortunate.
University students Nick Monisse and Sam O’Connell are the founders of StreetTalk, a regular outing in which they seek out homeless people in Perth City, buy them a meal and sit down to have a chat with them.
Mr Monisse said the idea was inspired by a suggestion from a high school teacher who encouraged him to stop and talk to people living on the streets.
“It’s just like a simple thing that doesn’t take up much of your time but probably means a lot to the person who’s sitting there on the side of the road, probably pretty lonely,” he said.
“Homeless people actually aren’t that scary.
“They’re people too.”
Mr Monisse says that StreetTalk, in which 10 volunteers are involved, has been very well received by the homeless people he has met.
“They’re usually a bit surprised but they’re just happy to have a chat and get a feed, so they’ve always been really good,” he said.
Mr O’Connell said the idea for StreetTalk developed after he, Mr Monisse and several friends returned to Perth after spending the summer volunteering in India at homes for the poor, sick and destitute.
“On the flight back home, Nick suggested it to me and a couple of other guys sitting around us, that he thought the idea of just going around the city or other places and having lunch with a homeless person might be a good idea, and it sort of spread from there,” he said.
The casual nature of StreetTalk was important to its success but Mr O’Connell said there was potential for the project to expand.
“I think informal is good,” he said.
“We don’t really want it to be a thing where we’re sort of marketing ourselves or trying to do it as a way of getting recognition … but if it spreads by word of mouth and there ends up being a lot of people doing it, then that’s surely a good thing.”
Photo: William Scheggia