A MOUNT Gambier pensioner has provided basic living essentials to support more than 10 vulnerable residents as a way of giving back following her own brief involvement with ac.care’s homelessness service.

Louise Rawle, 77, made the sizeable donation of new clothing, sleeping mats and hygiene products to the Mount Gambier Community Centre after months of patiently planning and spending at local stores.

Now having the stability of a safe, secure home, Louise was inspired to support vulnerable residents through ac.care following her own experience with the Limestone Coast Homelessness Service team when she arrived in Mount Gambier around three years ago without a place to stay and few belongings.

Prior to arriving in Mount Gambier in 2021, Louise had been living in Mackay, Queensland, after relocating from Wangaratta in Victoria due to a health condition.

“I have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and the warm weather is supposed to help with that, but I ended up in hospital twice with pneumonia due to the humidity,” Louise said.

Having sold all her belongings to restart life up north, Louise made the tough decision to move back closer to Victoria, which resulted in a brief stay in Adelaide.

“When I arrived in Adelaide, I saw people lying on the footpath or lying in doorways and I’d never seen that before,” Louise said.

“It was a rude awakening because I thought that only happened in other countries and I’d just never been where it was happening.”

This eye-opening experience coincided with Louise’s own struggle to secure housing with a charity in Adelaide suggesting she move to Mount Gambier in the hope of finding affordable housing and to be closer to her Victorian family.

Louise was connected to ac.care’s Mount Gambier Community Centre in the hope of finding a home, with ac.care homelessness client support worker Carmel Grosvenor securing a motel stay for one week, followed by a caravan site the following week.

“Carmel never stopped trying to help me – she was so beautiful,” Louise said.

“I still remember when she called me down to the community centre and told me she had found a house for me, as well as some furniture.”

A FRIENDLY FACE: Louise Rawle reconnects with ac.care homelessness client support worker Carmel Grosvenor, who provided support when Louise faced uncertainty with her housing.

The humble pensioner was determined to navigate her unexpected situation, which put her on the brink of homelessness.

“The fear of not knowing for sure if you have somewhere to live is unbelievable,” she said.

“Unless you have been in that position, you can’t really understand what that feels like.”

Settling into her modest home, Louise’s recent experiences and exposure to homelessness remained front of mind.

“I remember sitting in my home on a cold night and just thinking ‘how can anyone survive in that?’

“In a rich country like Australia, that should not happen.”

A quick Google search for what was most needed by people rough sleeping followed, with warm socks, sleeping bags and sleeping mats among the top responses.

Having appreciated the support she received from ac.care, Louise set a “challenge” to purchase and donate items that would help at least 10 vulnerable people.

“To me it had to be a group of 10 because then you know you have really done something if you help that many people,” Louise said.

Louise praised the support of Mount Gambier businesses, including Kmart, Aussie Disposals and Best and Less, joking that staff likely thought she was the “lay-by queen”.

“I went in and told them what it was for and they would extend the lay-by time for me and I’d just keep paying a little off every fortnight,” Louise said.

“I was challenging myself and I won that challenge.”

After making her significant donation to ac.care, Louise has vowed to continue in a smaller, regular capacity.

“Even a pensioner can extend themselves if they want,” she said.

“If you just throw a tin of food in or a pair of socks with your shop, stack them up and it makes a difference.

“When I saw how grateful the ac.care staff were, it was good for the soul.

“I think if people just tried and saw what they get back from it and how that feels, they would do it more.”

ac.care Limestone Coast homelessness service manager Kelly McGuinness said staff were moved by Louise’s donation, which made a difference in the lives of several vulnerable community members.

“To be shown appreciation in this type of way is special because it not only highlights the importance of our work, but it is paid forward to someone else doing it tough,” Kelly said.

“We are glad Louise has been able to overcome her own challenges with some support from ac.care and are grateful for her generosity.

“Our team works hard each day to provide basic living essentials, support services and opportunities for people in need.

“Donations like these give people the comfort and dignity they deserve as they work towards overcoming their own life challenges.”

ac.care is grateful for the community donations it receives through www.accare.org.au/donate or in-person at its service sites.

ac.care is a specialist homelessness service provider for the Limestone Coast, Riverland and Murraylands, supporting people who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness.

To find out more or seek assistance visit our Homelessness Services webpage or call 1300 ACCARE (1300 222 273).

ac.care Locations

ac.care is a dynamic organisation servicing the South Australian communities the Limestone Coast, Murraylands, Riverland, Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu Peninsula.

Our mission is for all country people to have a safe home, enough money to live on and strong, positive relationships.

Please find our service locations here or use our contact form to request a service.

Mount Gambier
Head office and Foster Care

70-72 White Avenue Mount Gambier, SA 5290
PO Box 1842 Mount Gambier SA 5290
Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

Mount Gambier
Community Centre

22-24 Ferrers Street Mount Gambier, SA 5290
Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

Mount Gambier
Family Relationship Centre

1 Helen Street (cnr Bay Road) Mount Gambier, SA 5290
Monday
9am to 5pm
Tuesday
10:30am to 5pm
Wednesday
9am to 5pm
Thursday
9am to 5pm
Later by appt
Friday
9am to 5pm

Berri Community Centre
Servicing the Riverland

5 Kealley Street Street Berri, SA 5343
PO Box 1345 Berri, SA 5343
Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

Murraylands Centre
Servicing the Murraylands, Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu Peninsula

29 Bridge Street Murray Bridge, SA 5253
PO Box 2090 Murray Bridge, SA 5253
Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm

Millicent
Community Centre

57-59 George Street Millicent, SA 5280
PO Box 378 Millicent, SA 5280
Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm
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