Retired couple finds joy Helping the Homeless
A CHANCE meeting with a friend's son two years ago changed Sandy and Ian Sneddon's lives.
The young man had gone to America and become involved in alcohol and drugs before being taken under the wing of a program training homeless men to become chefs, which turned his life around.
"The minute I met him, I knew that I was meant to help homeless people," Sandy said.
"I say to people, please don't judge them, they're someone's son, brother, father, uncle or grandfather ..."
Helping the Homeless was born.
It's not a charity, Sandy is quick to point out - they don't give or receive money.
They are just a retired couple - with a little help from their friends and contacts - doing what they can to help "give others a break in this world", and achieving some amazing results.
They bring clothes, hats, shoes, glasses, backpacks, drink bottles, toiletries and other sundry items to the men, aged anywhere from about 20-80, across four different Gold Coast "feeds" for the homeless.
If they don't have what's needed one week, they put it on the list to bring the next.
"We get things especially for them, and that does a lot for their self-esteem," Sandy said.
"The Kiwis especially call us Ma and Pa, which shows respect; we are very honoured to be called that."
The men now see the couple pulling up before the feed and help them to set up their tables, take them down afterwards, and stay for a chat.
Sandy said she was constantly moved by the stories which had brought men to the streets, including sexual assault, family breakdown, mental health, alcohol and drugs.
"I've had many a 6ft-tall fellow crying on my shoulder," Sandy said.
But the couple, now in their 70s, who once wondered what they would do in their retirement, haven't stopped at that.
They also take clothing to the homeless in hospital, giving them something to wear when they leave, and help others to furnish rooms or homes.
Ian also organises for the men's teeth to be examined and a hairdresser attends feeds every six weeks, giving the men greater confidence to go out and face the world, and potentially gain employment.
The couple also finds them skateboards or bicycles to get around more easily and, with a number of of the men keeping dogs, also supply dog food.
"They love those dogs - often they would feed them before themselves," Sandy said.
It's no small undertaking, with most of the week taken up gathering donations - which have overtaken their garage - and supplying goods and help.
Sandy estimated it costs them over $150 a week in petrol, but adds "what's petrol when you're helping someone set their life back on track?"
"It's a very different world on the streets - they sleep during the day and walk around at night because it's safer, and they wear black so they're not easy to find ..."
However, she said, she and Ian feel perfectly safe, with the men all knowing "there's no swearing in front of Ma" and they have to say please and thank you or they miss out on whatever is on offer that day.
"It's certainly not the language they use on the street," Sandy said.
She laughed at a recent incident in which a man had sworn and then apologised "Oh Ma, I'm f***ing sorry!"
"People say it must be emotionally exhausting, but it's not - we come home on a high because we've helped someone that day," she said.
"We feel like we were guided to do this."
Sandy and Ian thanked South-East Queensland Professional Assoc, Living Rivers Op Shop Coomera, Kimya Mianji and their friends and family for their ongoing support.
If you can help the couple in their work, go to email@example.com, find them on Facebook or call 0418 883 266.