When Rev Mat Harry tackles the Melbourne Marathon this month, he will be running for a very worthy cause.
The New and Renewing Communities Catalyst with equipping Leadership for Mission in Parkville will be lacing up his runners on October 15 thanks to assistance from Uniting Vic.Tas.
While Mat missed out initially on gaining entry into the marathon, Uniting was happy for him to use a spot they had available if he was willing to combine it with fundraising for them.
He was only too happy to oblige, so money raised will go towards Uniting’s Street to Home pilot program in the Wimmera, which helps people who are sleeping rough.
Uniting successfully rolled out the pilot program earlier this year, and outreach worker Glenn Kimberley has already helped more than 70 rough sleepers, aged from six to 69.
They include a single parent with four children living in a tent by a lake, a couple in their early 20s sleeping in their car in central Horsham, and a middle-aged woman living in a tent on her own in a national park.
“The people I work with are often so embarrassed about rough sleeping that they live each day trying not to be seen,” Glenn says.
“It can be a real challenge to get that initial engagement, and sometimes it takes days, other times it takes months, but it’s all about building that trust in the relationship.”
Church and community groups responded generously during the pilot program, donating warm clothes, sleeping bags and blankets, as well as making financial contributions.
An application has also been lodged for funding and expansion of the program, replicating the Ballarat Street to Home program which Uniting delivers across the Central Highlands.
Mat says a recent trip out to the Wimmera and lunch with Glenn left him determined to help in any way he could, in his case through raising funds while tackling the Melbourne Marathon.
Mat says Glenn is doing a power of work in helping rough sleepers in the Wimmera.
“As an outreach worker for the pilot project, Glenn’s role is to seek out these rough sleepers, offer material aid to keep them safe and warm with sleeping bags, tents, swags and food, while also linking them to healthcare, mental health support, and drug and alcohol support,” Mat says.
“By providing this in-person support, people sleeping rough aren’t left alone while they wait for housing, instead remaining in contact with services even if it’s for a chat, a coffee or some food.
“After only nine months, the number of people Glenn supports within the regional centres and smaller towns has surpassed 70, and that is 70 people with feelings, hurts, pains, desires and hopes like ours but who find themselves without safe accommodation.”
Mat has been clocking up the kilometres in training ahead of his date with the 42km Melbourne Marathon course, and he can’t wait to tackle it in support of such a wonderful cause.
He hopes Uniting Church members in Victoria and Tasmania will get behind him and support those doing it tough in the Wimmera.
Go to to Mat’s fundraising page to make a donation