Launceston mum challenges the stigma of homelessness

MISSION: Founder of 'Launceston feeding the homeless' Kirsten Ritchie at Royal Park where she hosts free dinners each night. Picture: Phillip Biggs
MISSION: Founder of 'Launceston feeding the homeless' Kirsten Ritchie at Royal Park where she hosts free dinners each night. Picture: Phillip Biggs

It has been one week since Launceston mum Kirsten Ritchie decided she wanted to make a difference in her hometown by creating a food service for homeless people.

Her online page for ‘Launceston feeding the homeless’ has already gained almost 3000 followers and  she now spends each night at Royal Park offering food to locals who have fallen on hard times.

“The support has just been overwhelming, the love and compassion from the community members that are supporting the cause …. it’s just amazing,” she said.

“I don’t have a specific drop off point … it’s a bit of a struggle, there’s so many more people who want to donate. My car is already [full] now.”

Inspired by the story of a homeless man in Launceston which had been shared across social media, Ms Ritchie kicked off the project last week and now has six regular visitors to her nightly barbecues.

“These guys were starving … my first time going into the park and walking up to someone sitting on a seat, I had a banana in my hand and I said ‘are you hungry’ and he started crying …and after just this week talking to them all, they come to the park smiling now, they’re happy and they’ve got a place to come.”

While food support services such as the Vinnies Van and City Mission’s Morton Place are already available in Launceston, Ms Ritchie said she was simply “filling a gap”.

“[Services] have been closed over the Christmas period and some services are limited … if I can do what I’m doing and help people 365 days a year, surely that’s a win for everyone involved.”

While the project is still in its early stages, Ms Ritchie said she had big plans for the future.

“I don’t plan on stopping … it’s going to be Tasmania wide.

“It’s not just about helping people who are living on the streets. There are many people who do actually have a roof over their head but are on the verge of becoming homeless. If it comes down to them not being able to afford food, we want to be able to help them.”

More information at ‘Launceston feeding the homeless’ on Facebook.