After watching a YouTube video with her family, Gen Jagt knew she needed to do something about the homelessness crisis in Penrith.
Now, six years on, her organisation Paying it Forward Homeless Services Inc. is feeding hundreds of rough sleepers all over the community.
“For us it’s not just about the meal, it’s the social aspect to let them know that they’re still a part of the community,” Ms Jagt said.
“We get to know these guys so well, they’re like our family.”
Every Sunday Ms Jagt, along with volunteers, creates a buffet style feast in Jamison Park. It’s here they provide information about other support services, perform medical assessments and hand out donated comfort items.
“The services are essential because they allow people to come and get a meal and use their money on other things like medication, especially throughout winter,” she said.
Volunteers deliver anything from blankets and lozenges to sunscreen and ice water. Providing comfort during extreme weather is one of their main priorities.
“The ones who know us are always so appreciative, very excited and always greet us with big hugs,” Ms Jagt said.
“For the ones who don’t, we have to approach them a lot differently, they can be a little bit hesitant just through fear and protecting themselves. We just drop some things close by, let them know it’s there and watch them dive in once we’ve started to drive away.”
Operating solely out of their personal vehicles, they are now fundraising through GoFundMe for a professional service van.
“With 32 volunteers it’s hard to keep track of where all the equipment and items are,” she said.
“The van will allow us to not only have everything in one place, but to make us more mobile and accessible to other areas who need help.”
Currently $2050 of the $5000 has been donated.
The group also has a donation table at Jamison Park every Sunday.
“Until we have more affordable housing there is going to just be more and more people on the streets, it’s hitting everyone,” she said.
To make a donation, visit www.gofundme.com/homeless-meal-service-van.
A graduate of Western Sydney University, Nicola Barton is a news journalist with the Western Weekender, primarily covering crime and politics.