Helping newly homed people take the next step

Published 5:00am 27 March 2024

Helping newly homed people take the next step
Words by Jodie Powell

Samford’s Bronwyn Wood is changing the lives of people who are starting afresh after spending time on the streets.

The former teacher has joined forces with the Northwest Community Group Inc, a charity that provides clothing and other essentials needed by people in the homeless community in places such as South Brisbane’s Musgrave Park and Ferny Hills, as well as young people in supported accommodation.

Since Bronwyn founded Next Step Connect this year, she’s been helping newly homed people find the resources, services, household items and communities they need to start again.

The former owner of The Three Quills School of Witchcraft and Wizardry used to transport guests at her workshops into a world of magic – now she’s adding a little sparkle to the lives of people beginning anew by helping them gather the essentials to turn their accommodation into a place to call home.

Critical need

Bronwyn came across Paul Slater and the Northwest Community Group on social media when she was advertising her workshops.

Struck by Paul’s generosity and that of his team of volunteers, she reached out to see what she could do to help.

What she discovered was that while people were provided with a roof over their heads, often they had very little else.

“They may never have lived where they’re put, so they don’t know the bus times or where the doctor is.

“It’s a permanent placement – this needs to become their home and they’re isolated.

“One guy was supposed to get a microwave and couch, a single bed, fridge, jug and a toaster,” Bronwyn says.

“He had a bed, one fitted sheet, one pillow, one pan and a saucepan – there was nothing in the pantry or fridge, no furniture.

“He had no pens, no can opener, no scissors, no sharp knife – luckily I’d put a few things in a box – he had nothing and his pay wasn’t until the next week.

She’d been called in by the Northwest Community Group to help the man navigate administrative tasks.

“In mid-January Paul said ‘I need someone who can go and do home visits’.

“He’d been in jail most of his life and didn’t know how to use technology.”

Creating connections

Bronwyn asked the man about his Centrelink card – he produced three, each given to him at different times he was released from jail.

“Then he pulled out his over-18s card and I said ‘this is your ID, you need to keep it in your wallet’ – and he said he didn’t have a wallet – that broke my heart.”

It also sparked Bronwyn into action – if this was the plight of one man, there had to be many others in the same situation, in new accommodation without the bare necessities.

“I thought to myself that they were no longer homeless, but what was next for them? That’s how Next Step Connect came about.”

Bronwyn turned to social media for help, posting in ‘buy nothing’ and community pages seeking donations from the community.

Realising the project needed some structure, she created a basic wish list as a thought starter for the people she was meeting on home visits at the request of the Northwest Community Group.

It helped them identify the things they needed to create a home, and they added other requests too, such as a guitar and art supplies to help start their new lives – and the donations flooded in.

Show of support

“All of these people have only been in a home since Christmas,” Bronwyn says.

“I’m just there to show that I care and give them what they need.

“I’ve been donated just about everything – I have a wish list and I send them the list. If I find it, I find it and if I don’t, I don’t, but usually I do.”

Storage King at Everton Hills has donated a 10ft container for $50 a month, easing the pressure on Bronwyn, whose home was fast filling with the community’s generosity.

“It brings me joy when I see people getting things they’re not expecting,” Bronwyn says.

“A lady who came to my house donated a $100 gift voucher, five hairdressing vouchers, three handbags, high quality shoes, seven bags with over $1000 in cosmetics and beauty products – the people I gave them to just couldn’t believe that strangers cared so much.”

Click here to find out more about Next Step Connect or donate.

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