Werribee South resident Phil McDonald is the founder of the non-profit organisation Feeding Families, which helps people doing it tough with food, clothes and other items. He travels across the state to help homeless people and those on low incomes. He chats with Alesha Capone.
How long have you lived in Werribee South?
I’ve been here going on 10 years.
Is there anything you like, or don’t like, about the area?
The lack of help from the government and council, the lack of help for the homeless and how they are treated by the community. I go out and feed and clothe them every night. I see how they get spat on, punched and kicked. Guys and girls get bashed, and they are chased by Sudanese gangs who steal their mobile phones or what little they have. Some people think that if they give homeless people money, they will use it to buy drugs. But 98 per cent will buy food first. If they don’t they would just go hungry.
What are the circumstances like of some of the people you help out?
Not everyone is homeless, but even if they have somewhere to live they can’t afford food. I go out into the bush and the country. People are surprised by how many people in the country and regional areas are struggling. If anyone reaches out to me, I will help them.
Why do you do this?
Because I am sick of seeing people struggling with no help, Or if they do seek help, there is so much to go through – red tape, paperwork, proving they fulfill certain requirements. People may have jobs but they struggle by the time they pay rent, bills and for medication. I’m originally from the bush myself, originally NSW. When I first came to Victoria I lived on the streets because I had to give 98 per cent of my money to my ex-wife for my kids, I had nothing to live on. Just a little bit of compassion can go a long way. That’s worth more than any wage for me.
What do you enjoy about assisting those in need?
Helping people, giving them food and warm clothes. Seeing the smile on their face when they leave and the tears in their eyes – every single person does this, they can’t believe how much you give them or that one person would go so far for them or drive so far to help them. I had a mum the other day with four special needs kids, I filled up her car with food, gave her cash and money for fuel. In the day, I’ll do a clothes and blanket swap for some people, so I can take their old ones home and wash and dry them. I do have volunteers that help me out now and again. People will give me donations, and organisations and big companies, because I keep asking them and I am very persistent.
You also used to hold monthly barbecues in Werribee South, for anyone wanting something to eat?
As soon as I am allowed, I will be doing them. People don’t have to prove they are on Centrelink benefits or anything, just come with your family and a blanket, sit down and enjoy yourselves.
Would you like to add anything else?
I’ve been doing this for 13 years. Now since COVID, it has gotten a lot bigger, we have helped out people in 10 countries including Asia, America, Afghanistan, Israel, Turkey and Papua New Guinea with sending over food, medical supplies and clothing, but doing that is very expensive because of shipping costs.
For more details about Feeding Families, see www.facebook.com/groups/feeding.families.australia