For Scott Hawkanson, principal mortgage consultant at Australian Mortgage Brokers, getting involved in charitable causes is more about time than money.
“It is easier to donate money to causes, and I don’t intend to discount donations because everything does help, but in my experience it is much more significant to donate your time.”
Hawkanson is heavily involved in Rosies, a Queensland-based not-for-profit organisation whose philosophy centres around donating time. Hawkanson has been a volunteer at Rosies for two and a half years, and is involved in its street outreach and youth detention visitation programs.
“It’s all about trying to make people feel that society hasn’t left them behind. It is about connecting with people and engaging in meaningful discussions with these people who don’t get the chance to have meaningful discussions.”
There is often a stigma attached to homelessness that these people are lazy; that they could go out and get a job if they really wanted to, or they are in this situation by choice – but this is not the case.
“The one thing I have learned through the people I have come in contact with through the street outreach program is that they have only had one or two unfortunate things happen to them in their lives, and it is the lack of a support network to lift them up through these times that leads them to homelessness. It could happen to any of us – if we didn’t have solid support networks, then we could find ourselves in the same position.
“One man I met used to run his own thriving hire car business before he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Due to the diabetes, he has lost half of one foot and was on the way to losing the other, and now he can’t hold a licence anymore. He can’t drive anymore. This is a prime example of something going wrong which can’t be controlled. His parents passed away when he was relatively young, and he was left with no support network when this happened. No one was there to pick him up and help him move on.”
It is this lack of a support network that often causes people to feel left behind. When someone feels left behind, especially through a time in need, they can become disconnected. This disconnect with society can cause homelessness. Hawkanson stresses that you should never underestimate the significance of giving up your time to spend with someone in helping them feel connected again.
“There was this elderly lady, in her seventies, that we used to see quite regularly, but then we didn’t see her for three or four months. We were asking the other patrons if they had seen her, and no one had. She eventually turned back up and asked us if it was true that we had been asking about her and asking where she was. When we told her that we had, and that we were concerned when we hadn’t seen her in a while, she burst into tears. She told me, ‘I can’t believe people like you would worry about somebody like me.’ ”
Hawkanson is also involved in the Rosies youth detention visitation program; he visits the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre in Wacol to spend a couple of hours every second Saturday with the 10–17-year-olds who are under youth justice supervision in that facility.
“These kids aren’t bad kids. A lot of them are there because they are just caught in a bad cycle. You will hear staff talking about kids in the detention centre who are children of parents who were once in here themselves. Then there are a lot of them who are there because it is better than being at home. Being in a detention centre is better than having to face some of the nasty issues they are confronted with at home.”
The facility runs educational programs so the kids can finish school, or they can learn a trade. This often provides a better opportunity for some of these children to learn than if they were at home. Just like with homelessness, there are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to children under youth justice supervision. A lot of them do have aspirations and motivations, but what they don’t have is support.
“Somebody once said to me, ‘How do kids spell the word ‘love’? They actually spell it t-i-m-e’; and it comes down to just that. All they want is your time. All they want is your support. When people ask me why I do this, I tell them that if we all cared enough to give up our time for others, then we probably wouldn’t have the issues that we have.”
Hawkanson spends his time in the detention centre, playing table tennis, cards, trivial pursuit, or playing touch footy with the kids. There is no agenda behind Rosies, or behind why Hawkanson volunteers in either the street outreach or youth detention visitation programs. It all just comes down to spending time.
This article is from Australian Broker Issue #11.16. Download the issue to read more!