Cos We Care is a small Adelaide based charity that’s transforming lives and community attitudes about homelessness.
I spoke with one of the Founders, Ann Cooper about how she came to start Cos We Care and how it’s quietly transforming people and community in Adelaide.
Cos We Care started when Ann and a friend decided they wanted to do something positive for the estimated 152 people sleeping rough in Adelaide and surrounds. They prepared some bread rolls, cookies and boiling thermos and started approaching local businesses to spare a roll of toilet paper, a beanie, or whatever they could manage.
“We didn’t have a lot back then, but we made something of what we collected and just started walking around meeting people, and offering what we had.
We felt so great about it, we just wanted to do more. We couldn’t wait till the next Sunday to come – and we just kept on doing it.”
Their impromptu outreach was about more than providing material aid – Ann wanted to do something about the isolation and loneliness people who are homeless experience. By asking approaching local businesses and total strangers to donate some food, a gold coin, or their time, Cos We Care is working to build a community where no one suffers the pain of isolation just because their circumstances have led them to homelessness.
“We don’t go to Foodbank, everything we get is donated from local people and businesses – it’s about getting people to be involved.
We now have about 30 volunteers – covering different things – sorting, distribution and helping out on the weekends. We have people who cook, share equipment, help set up, it’s a big community of people involved. That’s what makes it what it is.”
Now Cos We Care operates a weekly community breakfast in the local parklands and they now have about 80 regulars every Sunday. Ann is passionate about the Care in their name – and what it can do to change people’s lives.
“You never know where someone has come from, but everyone deserves care, and when you show that it changes everything.”
People sleeping rough or experiencing chronic homelessness are a small percentage of overall homelessness, but are more likely to have experienced significant abuse and trauma, and struggle with untreated physical or mental health issues. It’s easy to judge someone on the street for being ‘rough around the edges’ – but showing a little compassion to someone who may have rarely experienced it is much more helpful.
“I will never forget one fella had quite a bad attitude when he came to our first few breakfasts. But he kept coming, and we knew he’d come from a tough place – so we just kept reminding him that we are here because we care. After a few weeks, he had totally changed. He has beautiful manners, shows up early every Sunday to help out, and makes sure he thanks everyone by name. All it took was a little decency – we showed him respect and care.
It’s the little things that make a difference – care doesn’t cost you anything, but it’s so powerful and we need more of it.”
With the help of our StreetFunder community, we are supporting Cos We Care along with three other projects this month. Christmas is a busy time for the services we support and Cos We Care are no exception. They have been busy collecting food for hampers and will be holding a Christmas lunch in the park. Ann will be using the StreetFunder grant to give people something they may not have had before – a choice.
“When you’re depending on charity – so much of what you get is often the only thing on offer. The people we help are very grateful for that – but I’d love for them to buy something they really want – something they chose. That might be something they need, or a gift for a nephew, or something they just really want. I’d love for people to have that choice, that would be really wonderful.”