Sleeping rough is hard on the body and hard on the mind.
Comfort and kindness can be hard to come by for the men and women who sleep in parks, under bridges and in abandoned buildings in the Manning region – to many people they are invisible, but a growing group of women see their need and are acting to make a difference – one sleeping mat at a time.
They need plastic shopping bags, thousands of them, and are hoping people will chose to unpack their groceries and instead of throwing the bags in the bin, they will donate them to the group. The women transform the bags into plastic yarn that is crocheted to create “soft, spongy-texture sleeping mats for the homeless”, says group founder, Laura Price of Taree.
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About 500 to 700 bags are needed to create a standard size sleeping mat that can be rolled and easily stored in a pillowcase and Laura is confident the community will rally to support their project. The women meet at Manning Uniting Church in Albert Street, Taree every Tuesday from 10am until 1pm and they invite people to make time to drop bags to the church, or better still, join them.
Laura says there is a need to support our homeless, particularly as it gets colder, and adds that the group intends to also connect with the Orange Sky Laundry that visits the church every Friday between 10am and noon to enable the homeless to wash and dry their clothes free of charge.
The sleeping mat project is new, and while it may seem strange to make mats from plastic bags, Laura says “they are absolutely phenomenal.”
It puts a much-needed barrier between the ground and what they are sleeping in - it will keep moisture away.Laura Price
The decision to make the mats follows on from the success of making twiddle mitts and weighted blankets to give to children with anxiety and autism and elderly people living with dementia.
“A weighted blanket can help to calm anyone who has autism, anxiety or dementia and the twiddle mitts can help to reduce agitation and restlessness, which is common in people living with dementia.”
The group aspires to repurpose materials from good quality secondhand items and welcomes donations of materials. Laura laughs as she recalls the process of dissecting a teddy bear to use its materials.
“I put it on the table in the meeting room and laughed as I said, ‘now, I’m just going to do a y-section ... and then pretended to be the bear as I was saying ‘I can’t hear you properly’ as I cut his ears off, it was absolutely hilarious!
“One of the ladies knitted a little mouse that went into a pocket that was made from the ear of that dissected teddy bear. It was added to a weighted blanket.”
Laura hopes more women will want to join their group.
“There are a lot of crafters out there who want give back to community but don’t want to sit and just make squares.
“The women range in age from a new mum with a six-week old baby to pensioners and everything in between. It’s not a sit around blue rinse gang crafty group, it’s for everybody of all ages.”