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Blessing bags to be given to Canberra and Queanbeyan homeless and at-risk

Toothpaste, a clean toothbrush, shampoo and soap are things most of us take for granted, but for the homeless or at-risk in the community, these basics are considered a luxury.

When 28-year-old Grace Stephenson experienced homelessness she found it was essentials like these that cost the most. It was her own past experiences that led her to create "blessing bags" for those in need in the community.

Twice in her life Ms Stephenson has been homeless. The first time at age 15 as an "unruly teen" and the second time as a mother with a six-month-old son.

Now more settled, she has set up a crowdfunding initiative to collect and pack blessing bags with a variety of snacks, water, sunscreen, lip balm and hygiene products for those in the situation she knows all too well.

Ms Stephenson recalled her first time being homeless as a student in year 10 as a big learning curve. The second time she became homeless was much more difficult for Ms Stephenson, who dropped out of school to earn a living and became pregnant with her first child at the age of 18.

"St Vincent de Paul put me in a young mothers' refuge; we shared with three other women and children. That was really tough," Ms Stephenson said.


"I remember one girl was using drugs on the premises; it was horrible. I had a young son and I was trying to study.

"I finally got my housing house and moved into my own place and got a job … and I was able to get on my feet a bit."

Food not toothpaste

During the times she was homeless, Ms Stephenson said she remembered occasions she desperately needed emergency relief because she didn't have the money to even buy the essentials.

She said when you're homeless there is no choice to make between purchasing food or purchasing hygiene products.

"They're non-essential items when you don't have anything. Food is a bit more important than toothpaste and proper shampoo," she said.

St Benedict's support service co-ordinator Elaine Lollback was thrilled to be asked to help distribute the blessing bags to those in need in the community.

"It's one of those things that just make people's lives brighter," she said.

"We don't have the resources to put into doing something like this, so it's nice to think someone else is prepared to do the work and pull it together."

Ms Stephenson said one of the most important parts of the blessing bags would be the personalised notes tucked inside.

"Just being able to reach out to them that way and let them know they're not forgotten about is really important," she said.

To donate, visit and search "blessing bags".