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Swags offer warmth and more for Cobram

Inventor of unique product drops in to Cobram's Citizen Advice Bureau who are planning a sleepout fundraiser later this year.

ROB HENSON July 11, 2014 3:15am

As the mercury plummets, the inventor of ‘‘street swags’’ has brought the gift of warmth and shelter to Cobram’s homeless.

It comes as swags-facilitator Citizens Advice Bureau plans a sleepout fundraiser to support the swag charity.

Street Swags founder Jean Madden brought scores of the lightweight swags to Cobrams’ CAB on June 27.

Ms Madden said demand was high for the award-winning product, with 600 swags produced each week and yet a waiting list of 1632 swags across Australia.

‘‘Eighty-two per cent of those seeking temporary emergency housing are turned away, that’s up to 94 per cent in Queensland,’’ Ms Madden said.

‘‘In the Shepparton area the situation is getting a lot worse and it’s going to spread through this (Cobram) area.’’

Since developing the swag in 2005 she’s been awarded Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year, Young Australian of the Year, and Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

Her unique design, which uses camper trailer-grade canvas and foam and folds up into a satchel, won her the INDEX Award in 2009 — the world’s largest design award — and an appearance on The New Inventors TV show.

Now a multi-dimensional charity offering other products and events, Street Swags is run entirely on private donations.

But Ms Madden said the swags were still her main cause.

‘‘When it’s getting colder now into winter, it can literally mean the difference between life and death,’’ she said.

Ms Madden said the swags had been proven to reduce crime, sexual assault, and drug and alcohol abuse.

‘‘Poverty perpetuates itself in a cycle of incarceration and homelessness,’’ she said.

She said there was not enough government support to combat homeless.

‘‘Absolutely not. The homeless in Victoria are the angriest,’’ she said.

‘‘Speaking to people I know they travel all over the country, Victoria’s homeless are travelling north seeking out better services.’’

CAB volunteer Bob Beggs said demand for the swags in Cobram had risen in the winter cold.

‘‘It’s hard to say how bad it (homelessness in Cobram) is. People sleep with their friends, going from house to house.

‘‘It’s a lot more prevalent than people would think.’’

The not-for-profit organisation is planning a mass sleepout later this year at Cobram Sports Stadium, with proceeds going to Street Swags.

The BYO bedding event is to include entertainment, lucky door prize and cooked breakfast.

For more information or to donate, visit www.streetswags.org.au

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