How Viridian is making a difference to homelessness through The Big Umbrella

How Viridian is making a difference to homelessness through The Big Umbrella

How Viridian is making a difference to homelessness through The Big Umbrella 150 150 Ian Granter

Over 100,000 people in Australia are homeless at any one time, 3 million people struggle to put a meal on their table each night and over 22,000 tons of edible food goes to waste in Australia every day. These figures really need to be read twice to sink in.

Since December 2018, the Viridian Community Program has worked to address these issues through The Big Umbrella’s program at Fed Square. Viridian’s contribution to the Big Umbrella includes:

  • Volunteering – 90 staff over three nights in December feeding and sharing a meal our ‘friends of the street’ plus ongoing bi-monthly volunteering support
  • Donations – $8,000 inclusive of matching gifts
  • Connected The Big Umbrella to Melbourne Docklands Studios for ongoing free parking for their new food truck
  • Christmas Food packs:  30+ bags

Viridian chose to partner with The Big Umbrella because of their holistic approach to addressing the challenges of homelessness. When many people think about what it means to be homeless, their thoughts likely jump to the financial and practical challenges. What would it mean to live without a roof over your head? How would you deal with not knowing where your next meal is going to come from?

However, there are also a range of broader challenges that work to keep people in hardship. These include the social impacts and the impact that everyday exclusion can have on the mental health of those experiencing homelessness.

Social connection is the foundation of The Big Umbrella’s program. Team leader Justin Dickinson calls for volunteers to ‘time care’ for ‘our friends of the street’. Support doesn’t stop at serving a meal to any of the 200 people facing hardship. Sitting down and sharing that meal turns Fed Square on a chilly night into a place to have a laugh. Time caring makes a unique difference. You’ll find yourself agreeing that Carlton are still playing terrible football, listening to an impromptu performance or simply hearing someone’s story.

Over the past 9 years, over 66,000 people hours have been donated through The Big Umbrella. At least 200 tons of surplus food destined for landfill has been saved on the way to meal 175,000. Volunteer support means meals can be prepped in a new commercial kitchen donated by Marvel Stadium and proudly served out of The Big Umbrella food truck.

There is no quick fix to homelessness, but the Viridian community has been privileged to help make a real difference by sharing a meal with those that need it.