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Coat Tree fever hits the Gold Coast as winter chill sets in

Salvationist Kevin Lawler says record numbers of people experiencing homelessness are accessing the Coat Tree this winter.

The reputation of the Salvos coat tree on the Gold Coast, now in its fourth winter, precedes it. Weeks ago, people experiencing long-term homelessness in the Southport area began asking when the coats would be appearing.

Kevin gives a community member a warm sleeping bag, essential for the chilly winter nights.

Warm coats, jackets and shoes donated by Salvos Stores and local workers are now being hung on trees near a couple of park benches opposite the Southport Courthouse for those sleeping rough or couch surfing, to access for free.


Salvationist Kevin Lawler, a senior soldier at Gold Coast Temple Corps, began the Coat Tree project as a volunteer. He is now employed as a community engagement worker at the Southport Courthouse, opposite the trees where the coats are hung.


“I now have volunteers from the corps coming down to sit by the trees to connect with people who come by,” he said. “Our volunteers might share some of their issues or concerns, the volunteers refer them to me, with their consent, and I can then support them in court or refer them to other Salvos services.


“This is a really good expression of our desire to connect to our local community and establish referral pathways.”


The coats will stay on the trees until the nights start warming up, which is still a few months away. Around 300 coats are usually taken each winter.

“In the last five days, we’ve given away 60 coats, so it looks like we’ll smash our record this year,” he said.

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate (left) is an enthusiastic supporter of the Coat Tree project.

Kevin shared that some of the Southport Courthouse precinct lawyers, other personnel and security staff have also donated some good quality warm coats. The bulk of the winter clothing comes from the highly supportive local Salvos Stores.


“It’s good to give away quality items, brand names, that people couldn’t afford,” said Kevin. “Just recently I spoke with a lady I’ve been supporting for over 12 months. She has been in and out of homelessness, couch surfing and prostitution. She has also lost three of her closest friends from overdose in the last six months. She only had a summer top on, so I gave her three jumpers and a coat, all really good quality, and she felt much better about herself.”


Warm sleeping bags, provided by Hannay Lawyers, as well as thongs and shoes, are also given out at the coat trees.


Kevin takes the coats down at night but sets them up early each morning across four trees. “A lot of community members are around then, waiting for court or just sitting, so it’s a great opportunity for me to engage with them at that time,” he explained.


Donations of warm, good-quality coats are welcome – through Salvos Stores on the Gold Coast or security staff at the Southport Courthouse.









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