Chris Cleary, founder of StreetMed, runs the entire non-profit organisation from her dining room table and her car. She manages a team of volunteers who provide street level physical and mental health first aid and welfare advocacy for Western Sydney’s homeless community.
Chris, a trained medic and mental health first aid, was volunteering with the homeless in Parramatta when she saw a real need for a first aid and mental health street level service dedicated to the homeless. She left her full time job as a first aid trainer and one month later in August 2014, had founded StreetMed and was out on the streets providing care.
“Everyone clothes, feeds and houses the homeless, but there was no one providing a street level care for the homeless,” Chris said.
Chris says that it’s the ability to build a rapport with people that makes StreetMed so successful. She is able to build relationships and trust with some of the most marginalised and vulnerable people in our community. This enables their volunteers to act as a bridging service between our society’s most vulnerable and the services that can provide them the care they require.
“For various reasons some homeless people have a problem with authority and won’t call an ambulance or go to a hospital for help. So, I’ll take them to the hospital or whatever service they require in my car, make sure they get the help they need and connect them with other services.”
StreetMed operates with no funding, relying on volunteers and donations of first aid supplies, sleeping bags, blankets, clothing and toiletries. Chris has forged partnerships with organisations like Wentworth Community Housing and Platform Youth to help get her clients into housing.
Chris estimates that the biggest causes of homelessness are mental illness and domestic violence, followed by drug and alcohol issues.
“There is a real stigma around homelessness, that everyone is dangerous, but I trust those on the streets more than I trust those leaving an establishment at 3am in the morning. The people we deal with have a kind nature and look out for each other and for us as well. Society could learn a lot from homeless people and their sense of community,” Chris said.
“People fear what they don’t understand. There’s this idea about the homeless, that they’re all drug addicts or thieves. But we see whole families living in tents, mothers and babies living out of cars. And so many people living in car parks and on couches. This is where StreetMed provides such a valuable service in providing street level care to those who need it.
“I feel safer around the homeless that being in society sometimes. There is no judgement, or disrespect. All they want is a fair go.”