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25/05/2011 / melgardener

Mel’s Winter Challenge

It was cold last night, wasn’t it? The girls and I stayed indoors with the heater on and warm slippers on our feet. After dinner, we had a warm bath, snuggled into our warm beds and read bedtime stories together. Winter is almost upon us (some might suggest it arrived early this year) and, as most of you know, I’m not such a cold-weather person. I tend to get very whingey when I’m cold and I like to complain (a lot).

So it’s good for me when I come across a piece of information that makes me stop and remember just how lucky I am.

Close to 105,000 people across Australia slept outside or in shelters last night (this figure is from Homelessness in Australia report from 2009 which was based on 2006 census figures).

The report goes on to state that 23% of the homeless in Australia are children (under 18 years).

Just think about that number for a moment. This means that almost 24,150 children were classified as homeless last night.

One organisation, Kids Under Cover (www.kuc.org.au), has come up with an ingenious way to keep troubled teens and youths closer to home or carers and maintain family units as much as possible. The organisation recognises another troubling fact, as revealed by the Australian Federation of Homelessness Organisations’ ‘Homelessness and Young People’ report in 2005; that two of every three young people who become homeless while at school, will leave school in the same year.

Kids Under Cover builds one- and two-bedroom studios on the grounds of the family or carer’s home which allows an at-risk young person to live independently, yet maintain ties with family/carers, increase stability in their lives and give them the support (in conjunction with other community programmes) needed to complete their schooling. The studios are temporary dwellings, which can be dismantled and moved once they are no longer needed.

Kids Under Cover operates in Queensland, Victoria and the ACT. The organisation was established in 1989 by Ken Morgan, who had previously been involved with the Variety Club as its longest serving President. In addition to the studio programme, Kids Under Cover also offers scholarship programmes (Victoria only) and runs a housing programme of 14 dwellings which are used to house young people as well as mums and children.

I came across this organisation when it sent me a media release and it really pulled me up short. All the figures I’ve quoted above are from a very easy-to-read fact sheet (which you can read here: http://www.kuc.org.au/images/stories/documents/kuc%20fact_sheet.pdf).

So, I’ve come up with a challenge for winter: I’m going to set up a swear jar. Except that instead of fining myself every time I swear, I will fine myself every time I complain about being cold. I am going to donate $10 for every complaint, whinge, whine, moan, grumble, grouse, cry or wail to Kids Under Cover.

Anyone care to join me? You don’t have to donate to Kids Under Cover – there are plenty of great charities that work directly with the homeless or at-risk kids. Salvation Army is launching its Red Shield Doorknock Appeal this weekend.

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