See the person, not the stereotype

Marcus Crook, 29, has been announced as the recipient of the 2016 Connections UnitingCare Anti-Poverty Award for his work with Melbourne’s homeless community, and for his efforts is the recipient of a $4000 grant.

The Anti-Poverty Awards recognise the many young people passionately working towards tackling inequality and injustice within Australia or abroad.

A passionate advocate for the homeless, gender equality, and global poverty-reduction, Marcus, co-founded HoMie (Homeless of Melbourne Incorporated Enterprise), a non-profit clothing store and fashion label that clothes, trains and employs people who are experiencing homelessness.   

Furthering their impact, HoMie also runs Homeless of Melbourne, an online advocacy program, which promotes a positive social movement for change by de-stigmatising and humanising homelessness.  

The online platform shares information and stories about Melbournians who are experiencing homelessness, and directly engages citizen support to advocate for social change.

“It’s a way for us to sit with, chat and listen to people we find on the streets as they speak freely, with the aim of providing an understanding and insight into each individual person and their circumstances,” said Marcus.

“Our VIP Shopping Days aim to increase feelings of social inclusion and bring homeless Melbournians into the HoMie support network,” explained Marcus.  

HoMie’s latest initiative is the Pathway Project, a retail training and employment program, which will offer an Australian-recognised retail qualification as well as guaranteed employment at retail chain Cotton On for trainees upon graduation.  

Connections Chief Executive Officer, Angela Forbes said the Awards presented a great opportunity for young people to come forward and be celebrated for their work.   

“These remarkable young people know that genuine investment in an individual is worthwhile, just as Connections knows that honouring their work and contributing positively for better outcomes for the families with whom we work, is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves as well as to others,” said Ms Forbes.    

Since opening its doors in July 2015, HoMie has held nine VIP Shopping Days, which have brought over 250 homeless Melbournians into its support network and distributed over 1,850 items of brand-new clothing. HoMie has also trained and employed three Melbournians who are experiencing homelessness.

Recognised for his humanitarian work and voluntary leadership, Marcus received the national award for his work in creating a more inclusive community, reducing social prejudice, empowering the homeless to re-integrate into the workplace and helping battle global homelessness through targeted and creative solutions.

To read Marcus' full Anti-Poverty Awards application, click here.