The two women behind the Narooma chapter of OzHarvest also support the homeless by providing them with temporary shelter.
Around the time of the 2019/20 bushfires, Donna Falkener and Michelle Preston joined forces with the community-minded owners of Ecotel on the northern edge of Narooma to provide a temporary base for the homeless.
"We are pretty well versed in how bad things can get," Ms Preston said.
"It may not look too bad but there are families living with families and couch surfing.
"It is pretty hidden but it you drive around certain times of the day you can see the smoke coming from the camps pocketed away."
The Ecotel has 18 single-room units with kitchenettes and bathrooms, plus three larger apartments where families stay in return for rent that is far more affordable than most other options.
"We look to give them somewhere safe to land, to gather their thoughts and make connections," Ms Falkener said.
Sometimes people cannot get rental accommodation because they have been black-listed.
Ms Falkener said staying at the Ecotel for a few months gives them a rental record "which gives them a foot in the door".
A family of six lived in an Ecotel one-room unit for six months. That six-month rental history enabled them to be rehoused in Batemans Bay.
The pair are well connected with the council and government services, which Ms Falkener said handle heavy case loads in the two or three days they operate each week.
"Systems down here are broken - the mental health system, the child care system," she said.
Part of the support they provide is giving advice on the services available and how to access them.
They are well known in the community and trusted as a safe place. People message them when they know of people in need such as someone fleeing domestic violence in Shoalhaven.
Residents are asked to work in the garden or on property maintenance in exchange for a reduction in their rent.
"It gives them a sense of self-worth and a work ethic," Ms Falkener said.
Mitch, a resident of the Ecotel for 10 months, helps out by painting the units when they need refurbishing.
Unfortunately, they need refurbishing frequently, the cost of which is borne by the Ecotel's owners Garry and Stina Kerans. They also "get stung a lot" when people leave without paying.
As former nurses, Ms Preston and Ms Falkener have an empathetic and practical approach.
"We don't judge people for not having a home. We try to support them but they have to try to change themselves," Ms Preston said.
Ms Preston said she was venting about the homelessness problem and the many desperate families back in 2015.
She felt the situation had become a lot worse since.
"It is the same across Australia - the rolling affect of COVID and no social housing being built."
She said COVID has exacerbated the "big sea change. Everyone is coming here and rentals are disappearing."
They are happy with what they are doing.
"We have seen the success we can achieve by giving people a stable foundation and then getting them supported by services," Ms Falkener said.
"OzHarvest and Ecotel are all linked in. We couldn't do one without the other."
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