It's really really cold. Here's how you can help the homeless.

Temperatures plummeted to below zero in many parts of Australia overnight and the need to dig deep and help the homeless is greater than ever.

“During these colder periods when extreme weather events become more frequent, homeless people are more susceptible to depression and making bad choices due to the desperate situation they find themselves in,” the Salvation Army’s Sydney Inner City Homelessness Director, Major Bryce Davies said.

“It is vital that we are able to accommodate the extra influx of people needing housing assistance this winter. Being turned away from shelter because there aren’t enough beds is a bitter pill to swallow.”

And according to Foster House team leader Claude Robinson, who helped 400 homeless and at risk people last year alone, there are a number of ways people can help the approximate 100,000 homeless Australians sleeping rough during this period.

  • Clean out your closets. "If people want to make an immediate difference they can always come into centres like ours and donate clothes or blankets or things like that," Robinson told Mamamia, saying coats, jumpers and other winter clothes are always needed. Donations can be made directly to an organisation or shelter, with a state by state listing of services available here.
  • Make a financial charity donation. "Money always helps," Robinson says. So even if a donation made today isn't necessarily used tomorrow it will help top up the coffers for the next time we have weather like this or another crisis. Donations to major organisations like The Salvation Army and the St Vincent de Paul Society are also tax deductible.
  • Go direct. If you see someone that's sleeping rough over the next couple of days, take some action. Robinson says giving money directly can help, but it's not your only option. "I think that's a personal choice. If you don't feel okay giving someone money directly you can always offer to buy them a meal or a coffee. A short interaction with someone might not seem like much to you, but it can have a big impact," Robinson explains.
  • Be empathetic. "It's very lonely and you don't know people's circumstances on how they've become homeless," Robinson says.

Meshel Laurie interviews a Melbourne homeless man for her podcast, The Nitty Gritty Committee.