Sometimes a once in a decade event brings out the best in people.

Spare a thought for the homeless as the storms wreak havoc in Sydney. The thousands of men, women and children who sleep rough have seen conditions over the last few days most of us could not imagine.

What were you doing last night?

Bunkered down in the warmth of your home checking the BOM for the latest weather advice in Sydney? Were you safe in your doona away from the chilly Melbourne night? Were you cosy in Brisbane, or Perth or Adelaide thinking of friends and family over in Newcastle or Sydney and wondering how their homes had fared?

Were you like me – safe, warm, dry. Comfortable.

Sydney mother Sacha Whitehead wasn’t. She was out on the streets of Sydney last night handing out dry clothing, blankets and sleeping bags to the homeless.

She was driving to the houses of generous Sydney siders and collecting waterproof clothing, bagging it up and walking the streets in the pouring rain to make sure that those in need made it through the night.

She was anything but dry, warm or safe.  She is one of the heroes of these storms. One of the many who looked past their own leaking homes and wet boots and turned to the plight of the homeless.

Fairfax Media reports that during this once-in-a-decade storm — which has seen three people die — the homeless have suffered the worst. The Salvation Army has reported an overwhelming demand for help as the weather forces many homeless out of their usual spots.

The Salvation Army Streetlevel Mission Leader, Mitchell Evans, said the number of homeless people sleeping in bus shelters, underneath building awnings and doorways had increased since Monday.

“A lot of our community have bunkered down. Even sleeping in bus shelters doesn’t help because the rain comes in sideways,” he said.

“City centres are pretty packed and full on. Last night many had nowhere to go,” he said.

It was this very thought that took mother-of-one Sacha Whitehead away from her own dry home to the streets.

Sacha Whitehead about to head out ( Photo: Sacha Whitehead)

Sacha told Mamamia that she was motivated to help the hundreds on the streets by a post she read on Facebook. One of her friends wrote ‘Feel really sorry for all the homeless people right now‘  Sacha said she couldn’t get that image out of her head.

“I have a huge network on social media and have done a few things like this over time so just reached out. I was very pleased with the response!”

Early in the evening she put out the call.

The response was overwhelming. “We took 2 hours driving round collecting then headed to central station. Lots of the homeless people were in soaking wet clothes so we handed out plenty of dry warm clothes and sleeping bags and blankets,” she said.

With a car filled to the brim, accompanied by her sister she spent hours walking the streets helping out.

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Helping out ( Photo: Sacha Whitehead)

She told us that she “met one guy who actually took us around to all the hiding spots and helped us connect with them all, they were so grateful! So many we’re freezing, some with not even shoes on and because of the horrendous weather the usual food and clothing vans didn’t make their normal rounds!”


She isn’t the only one thinking of the homeless. With media personality Lisa Wilkinson pausing to think of those sleeping rough on such a terrible night.

Big cities can be anonymous, austere places at times. Where strangers pass without a second glance hurrying, determined to just get on with their day.

And then an event, like the last two days in Sydney, hits.

A once-in-a-decade storm. Days so brutal  you want to hide, winds and driving rain and conditions frightening in their extremity. But instead of turning us insular, and forcing us to bunker down, it has the odd effect of doing the opposite. It unites us.

Have you seen it? It’s a community battling this storm together. From the office worker holding the door open just a little longer so his colleagues can dash in before the rain whips their umbrella off, to the bus drivers waiting longer. You can see it in the faces of teachers helping their students button their raincoats, and on Facebook as mothers swap tips on keeping bored toddlers entertained on a rainy day.

And most of all you can see it on social media as charities are flooded with offers of help for the homeless or for those whose homes have been damaged in the brutal storm which have ravaged Sydney, the Central Coast and the Hunter.

There are examples like the generous offer by Adara Hotels Apartments Camperdown who have been providing homeless Sydneysiders rooms that had not been rented from their property for the night. They put the shout out on social media.

Other charitites like Homeless Run called for donations of clothes, beanies, sanitary items and blankets. The men who work for the charity were out last night tirelessly walking the streets handing out the items and seeking support for their sister charity Sisters in Need.

The charity Swags for Homeless, who provide swags to homeless agencies told Fairfax Media that they had received more calls on Tuesday than any other day in the organisation’s history

General Manager Troy Bailey said, “We just received a call from a man in Sydney’s inner west saying he had raised $800 and wanted to know how many beds he could buy with the money. He said he saw a man sleeping in this weather and just couldn’t stand it.”

The last few days have been just the start of the tough conditions for the homeless right throughout New South Wales. We need more Sacha Whiteheads. We all need to help.

If you want to help there are many charities you can support:

 Mission Australia

Swags for the Homeless

Homeless Run

The Salvation Army

Youth off the Streets 

The Exodus Foundation