18/12/2016 – Christmas on the Streets

Last Christmas, COTS held their very first event on the 18th of December 2016.

The team behind the scenes didn’t set any expectations walking into the event. Rather, they decided that if 5 or 500 people decided to support the idea, the goal for the day wouldn’t change. However much clothes, food, sanitary items and Christmas gifts we could possibly take into the city with us would be given out to anyone we saw sitting on the streets.

An overwhelming 1,000+ people shared the event/spread the word, 200+ people donated items and almost 100 people showed up to the city on the day to volunteer their time to bring the Christmas spirit to our homeless brothers and sisters on the streets of Melbourne. Most importantly, together we shared with them companionship – something everyone should experience; not only during Christmas!

The day before the event, volunteers were asked to gather at the Australian Elite Team HQ in Tullamarine for a night of packing and organising. Everything was loaded into people’s car and vans, ready to head to the city bright and early Sunday morning.

COTS can happily say that every gift (including new runners, food vouchers, sleeping bags and mobile phones), every piece of clothing, every sanitary hamper and every meal was handed out to over 100 beautiful people we came across who were homeless during the Christmas season.

It was following this particular event that our movement began. The greatest joy that came out of this event wasn’t the distribution of materialistic items, but it was the genuine encounter between the homeless and the volunteers. In those moments, labels and stereotypes were no where to be seen. We were all one. Unified, just like we are meant to be.

Everyone was left smiling, beaming with joy and radiating love and light. There was no way this was going to be the last of COTS, and we weren’t going to settle for just another event. Together, we all knew that this movement was destined to become something greater; greater than we had ever expected.

There is no limit to this movement’s potential. With a volunteer, a meal, some clothes, a hamper and a conversation full of love, we will slowly but surely change the world by sharing the joy of Christmas to all of those we encounter on the streets; reminding them that although they might be homeless, they are never hopeless.

More from the founder:

In 2015, I remember someone telling me “Rose, we have poor people here in our very own backyard.”

“Our very own backyard”…I will never forget these words.

So we started. We began to make small survival packs with food, drinks, sanitary packs and clothes and distribute them throughout the City of Melbourne. Overtime, we began to form friendships with our brothers and sisters on the streets. We called each other by name and whenever we found ourselves in the city, we would check up on them in their usual spots.

Looking back now, I can see that this is where COTS was being born. I just didn’t know it at the time.

In December of 2016, I was full of joy in the lead up to Christmas. I remember this joy fading quickly when I thought of my friends on the streets who would most likely be spending the season alone. The next day, I walked the streets and asked every man and woman experiencing homelessness that I saw what their dream Christmas present would be. Many said, “we can’t remember the last time we received a gift on Christmas.” One answered, “a pair of shoes, because mine have holes in them,” another said, “an iPod to listen to my music.” I will always remember the man who looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “a bouquet of flowers for my partner; I haven’t been able to give her flowers in a long time.”

I compiled this list, created an event on Facebook called “Christmas on the Streets” and put a call out for people to help me bring this vision to life. The response exceeded all of my expectations. On the 18th of December 2016, the week before Christmas, we hit the streets.

The rest is history. COTS was born, by accident one could say, and the story continues to be written every single day.

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