A bitter winter is looming. Already the nights are getting cold and it’s got me worried. You might remember a homeless lady died on a freezing night two years ago in Hornsby. Her fate is something me and my team at The Exodus Foundation work hard to prevent every day.

At last count there were 19,471 people who were homeless or sleeping rough in greater Sydney. Sadly, too many of them are children and young people.

Mary cares for one of them – her disabled son. Every night she comes to our food van where we serve all the rough sleepers and down ‘n’ outs in the City of Sydney.

Her son never comes with her though. He’s not well enough to leave their tiny bedsit. So she wheels a little trolley up to our food van behind the Domain and we make sure she goes away with a food parcel to sustain them both.

I worry Mary and her son could easily end up on the streets this winter. In February the City of Sydney’s bi-annual Street Count revealed a startling 9% rise in the number of rough sleepers. The need is growing and it’s only thanks to wonderful people like you that we can continue to meet it. The homeless and people like Mary are counting on us.

There are so many rough sleepers now that I believe society’s becoming desensitized to them. It’s got so bad that in some quarters the homeless are considered a nuisance. Recently in Melbourne they simply cleared out the homeless. If they did that in Sydney I don’t know where they’d all go! Walking past them I often think ‘there but for the grace of God go I’.

Even though our food van is always there winter remains tough. I watch as hundreds of homeless people line up in the cold and the wet to get a meal. The council don’t like it, but on wet nights we put up a small shelter so the homeless can eat out of the rain.

Our hot meals are always welcome, but we also give out warm clothing and blankets too. Suffering the effects of exposure is quite literally a killer if you sleep on the streets in winter.

On nights like this I often think of Jim. He was just  22-years old when I met him. At the time he was living under a bridge.

Jim was forced out of home after family trouble. As a result he dropped out of school. Remarkably he was determined to get his life back together. “It’s hard”, he told me in that first encounter. “I’m doing it all on my own”.

That’s when we stepped in. With your help we guided Jim along his road to recovery. The hot meals on cold nights were just the beginning.

The situation this winter is urgent. At The Exodus Foundation we face a relentless increase in demand for our services from the ever growing number of Australians living in poverty. Just imagine if one of them was someone you loved! That’s why I’m urging you to dig deep this winter. Together we can make their future better today. Donate now at exodusfoundation.org.au