Acclaimed hair stylist Natalie Anne is calling on the Australian haircare industry and her supporters to join her in supporting people experiencing homelessness during the Christmas season – and beyond.

On Monday 19 December, Natalie Anne’s squad of supporters will come together in Sydney to pack snack packs and personal care packages and distribute them, along with a hot meal, to men, women and children who are experiencing and/or at risk of homelessness.

The Let’s Influence Change volunteering event is part of Natalie Anne’s wider vision to raise $250,000 to sponsor St Vincent de Paul Society’s Vinnies Van Services that will provide regular meals, snack packs and personal care packs to those experiencing social isolation and homelessness.

Natalie Anne transformed her glamorous Croydon salon into a collection depot on Sunday 18 December to receive donations of toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, menstrual products, haircare products, non-perishable food for snack packs, or whatever the community can spare.

On any given night, more than 116, 427 Australians will experience homelessness. In NSW the rate of homelessness has risen 27 per cent since the 2011 census, with more than 60 per cent of those sleeping rough aged under 35.

For the past 60 years, the Vinnies Van Services have been working closely with communities, those rough sleeping, public housing and local Indigenous communities, building respect and promoting social inclusion and cohesion by providing a safe place for people to meet, eat a healthy meal and access support services through compassion and dignity.

Natalie Anne and her network of stylists recently volunteered with the Vinnies Van Services, and their experience was the catalyst in inspiring the Influence the Influencer fundraising event.

“Homelessness is often seen as something that the government needs to sort out, but the reality is that it’s not easily fixed. It’s a systemic issue driven by a multitude of factors, from housing affordability, low income, poverty, domestic violence, mental illness, addiction – the list sadly goes
on,” says Natalie Anne.

“As a hair stylist I’m part of an industry that promotes self-care so I’d love to see everyone in the hair and beauty industry come together to extend our care to those who are sleeping rough or living in marginal circumstances. If we’re able to raise $250,000 we can fund a Vinnies Van for an entire year. That means we can provide upwards of 140,000 meals – 300-500 meals per night – to men, women and, heartbreakingly, children who are doing it incredibly tough.”

Hair stylist Chris Midson uses Natalie Anne’s hair products in his Newcastle salon Mopp Hair, and came down to Sydney to volunteer with Natalie Anne’s team on a Vinnies Van run and admits he was initially feeling nervous about the experience.

“I thought it would be scary and confronting, but the run was amazing and hearing the stories of the people we met made me realise that homelessness is something that can happen to anybody at any time. I really felt like we were making an impact on people right here in Australia. Every person we met was so thankful and courteous and had a beautiful spirit about them. Simply put, it was an amazing experience for a good cause.”

Jeffery Morgan, a successful nutritionist, wellbeing coach and mental health advocate, grew up in Redfern and knows first-hand that homelessness and poverty can be an intergenerational cycle that is hard to break. He’ll be volunteering at Natalie Anne’s Influence the Influencer event, taking place today. “Living in poverty, that’s all I knew. It was all about survival,” he explains. “If you don’t have to think about your next meal, even for an evening, you have the chance to think about other things. It’s in those small moments of kindness and clarity that change can spark, and that’s why it was important for me to be part of this event.”

Josephine Charbel State Vans Manager says, “Being able operate a funded van for a year means we can visit more communities that are struggling now more than ever. Receiving support services, meals and personal care packs gives people an opportunity to not only enjoy a meal they might otherwise skip, but to use the money they saved to pay their utility bills or rent, or buy petrol, prescription medication or seek medical attention and/or children expenses. The knock-on effect of the Vinnies Van services is far reaching and powerful, no more so than enhancing their dignity and resilience.”

While Natalie Anne has launched this fundraising event at Christmas, it’s part of a long-term vision to influence meaningful change in the community. “It’s so important that we make an impact by offering a hand up, not a handout. There is genuine need for the Vinnies Van Services to provide regular support services, nutritious meals and care packs, as well as connection and compassion for the most vulnerable in our communities,” says Natalie Anne.

To make a donation to fund a Vinnies Van for a year, click here.