HoMie: providing opportunities and new clothing to people experiencing homelessness

“I was curious as to why people were living in this situation, how they got there in the most liveable city in the world,” Marcus Crook says.

Curiosity may have killed the proverbial cat, but it brought to life a passion within Crook and Nick Pearce. After meeting in 2013, they bonded over their shared passion for tackling homelessness.
Together, they founded HoMie - Homeless of Melbourne Incorporated Enterprises – a streetwear and social justice enterprise that provides employment and training opportunities, and new clothing to people experiencing homelessness through their Fitzroy store.
Though prior to this, neither had any experience working with homeless people – Crook dabbled in photography, and Pearce in media and communications. They simply took to the streets to talk to Melbourne’s homeless population, sharing the stories of the people they spoke to on their Facebook page, Homelessness in Melbourne.
“The conversations really opened our eyes to the fact that the stereotypical drug addict or alcoholic didn’t fit into the reality of who these people were. We wanted to dispel those preconceived notions and provide more insight into the fact that everyone has their own stories. It was confronting how close we were at times, or anyone could be, to that situation,” Pearce says.
That anyone could become homeless or in need at any time is a sobering thought. Of the 100,000 people who experience homelessness each night in Melbourne, only 6,000 are living rough.
“There’s 94,000 plus who we don’t see, who are couch surfing or living in their cars or supported accommodations. What we’re really advocating for is, there’s almost somewhat of a bigger issue behind closed doors, and we need to talk about that, and how to help these people.”
The seed for the charity was a Melbourne street store, the first if it’s kind in Australia, which saw truckloads of new clothing donated to those in need.
“That was a result of people hitting us up on the facebook page, wanting to donate clothes or blankets. Because that day was so successful, and everyone was stoked, we thought, how can we emulate this more permanently?” Crook says.
The two men are astoundingly young to have accomplished so much for others, and they frankly admit it’s come at personal sacrifice.
“We’re not kings. But we don’t do it for that. We do it because we’re making a genuine change, even if it’s just in the local community.”
Every now and then, I write stories that deeply impact me. Where I am privileged enough to be trusted to talk to inspiring people, and bring awareness to issues of such great importance. This is one of those stories, and Crook and Pearce are genuinely humbled when I tell them this, indicative of their selfless natures.
Their tireless work over the past few years has enabled HoMie to expand its horizons with The Pathway Program, a practical and hands on approach to breaking the cycle of homelessness through employment.
The program, which the pair are excited to finally have up and running, has been in development for over a year, and will allow those in need to successfully complete a Certificate III in Retail Operations, before helping the trainees make the transition to permanent part-time work.
“In essence, it’s an opportunity for people who are engaged in the program to take what they will. To build responsibility, confidence, and belief in what you do. It’s a small program, but we’re focussing on the quality, and we’ve found that sometimes it’s the smallest gestures that have the biggest and most profound impacts on people,” Pearce says.
Though the traineeship is currently small, the impact it’s having on these people's lives is insurmountable, and though limited by the size of the store, they plan to expand in the future. New clothing is an often overlooked luxury, but paramount in building self confidence in Melbourne’s homeless, Crook says.
“Everyone deserves dignity. People being able to choose what they wear is so important, and then by wearing the clothes, they become advocates for HoMie. It’s really cool to see people who support the ethos and wear it proudly. Feeling good externally can really translate to feeling good internally, and we took for granted how much that means to people in that situation.”
By Claire Morley

HoMie is located at 296 Brunswick St, Fitzroy. Find more information and contact details on their website. Dynamic Tattoo will be hosting an art show at Corner Hotel on Thursday May 4, supporting HoMie through funds raised.