A group of Canberra cycling enthusiasts have pledged to do their part to help tackle homelessness in the ACT.
Next weekend (22 and 23 April), Roehl Oringo and 13 other cyclists will ride the 310 km from Canberra to Sydney to raise money for the Vinnies Family Services program.
The program provides outreach support services to ACT families at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
As the group edges ever nearer to its $10,000 fundraising goal, Roehl points out that no one on the team is a pro by any measure.
“The group is a loose base of cyclists that started a Facebook page about 10 years ago to tackle our health issues. We initially just did it to motivate each other to achieve our health goals,” he says.
“As a consequence of doing it for ourselves, we became aware that, ‘hey, maybe we can do this for someone else as well’.”
The group has previously supported Vinnies and other charities by holding fundraising events.
This time, Vinnies asked the group for help to tackle the somewhat frightening trend in homelessness in the Territory, which is being compounded by the rising cost of living and affordable housing crisis.
Vinnies Canberra/Goulburn CEO Lucy Hohnen says the importance of community-led initiatives such as Cycling for Vinnies could not be overstated.
“We are humbled by the incredible support offered by this group,” she says.
“The majority of the funds we need to help the less fortunate come from the community and fundraising activities like these.”
In an inspiring display of community and business cooperation, Toyota Canberra has stepped forward to provide transport vehicles and Pushies Fyshwick bike warehouse is servicing their bikes to ensure safety on the long voyage.
Further sponsorship comes from Filipino restaurants Lolo and Lola, and Salu Salo and local not-for-profit business Servegate.
With their support, the group has organised the logistics of the two-day journey departing Canberra at 6 am on 22 April.
The group will stop roughly every 50 km to briefly rest and replenish before stopping overnight in Bundanoon, roughly the halfway point.
Leaving at 6 am the next day, they aim to arrive at the Sydney Opera House between 5 pm and 6 pm.
Roehl says the fundraiser shows that when ordinary people mobilise, they can positively impact the community services and charities that help people doing it tough. And when local business jumps in, it amplifies the effect.
“We would love Canberra to get behind this, if not by donating to our fundraiser, then by spreading the word or putting together your own event,” he says.
“All you have to do is gather a couple of like-minded people and it’s amazing what you can achieve. We’re no pros ourselves … if we can do it, anyone can, I guarantee it.”
As Canberra’s frigid winter approaches, the Vinnies Family Services program will become critical.
“There are so many homeless families in Canberra – I didn’t realise how dire it was until I sat down with Vinnies,” Roehl says.
“I think a lot of people don’t realise because Canberra is one of the higher average income places, but so many people need help, especially now as we’re coming up to winter.”
The program aims to support participating families to access and maintain safe, secure, independent and affordable housing.
Through case management, it addresses individual factors contributing to the risk of homelessness, with a strong focus on the needs of the children and the family unit.
Holistic, person-centred case plans utilise a trauma-informed approach and support independent decision-making by providing relevant information and referrals, advocacy, positive role modelling and strengthening life skills.
Eligible families are offered temporary transitional accommodation.
To join a fundraising event, donate or start your own campaign, visit Vinnies.