A Melbourne couple have taken out a human rights award for their work with the homeless.
Tony and Lisa Clark were selected as the winners of the Australian Human Rights Commission - Community Organisation award at a ceremony in Sydney on Friday December 9.
Mr Clark, who founded Swags for Homeless in 2007, started the non-profit homeless charity in Melbourne when he questioned what was given to street sleeping homeless turned away from shelters. Tony and Lisa Clark designed the emergency relief Backpack Bed, which also received the worlds largest and most prestigious product design award the Red Dot ‘Best of the Best’ in Germany this year.
Backpack Beds are provided to street sleeping homeless turned away from shelters - and are distributed through 139 charities around Australia.
“It’s extremely gratifying to receive this prestigious Human Rights award, however the real acknowledgment we need is from the government in terms of funding. It is against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Charter for the Australian Government to ignore homeless turned away from shelters empty handed. They need to listen to the almost 200 charities screaming about the success of the Backpack Bed program.” said Mr Clark.
Paul Moulds AM (Major) from The Salvation Army says the Backpack Bed has been invaluable to their organisation and used in many of their outreach programs for the homeless.
“It’s a grim reality that many people currently do not have access to safe or affordable housing and are living on the streets,” said Major Moulds.
Across 139 charities approx. 3000 Backpack Beds were distributed in 2011 which Mr Clark says falls well short of the required 21,000 yearly needed to assist homeless across Australia.
“As well as warmth and protection, the Backpack Bed provides the homeless with dignity,” added Mr Clark.
A staggering 16,375 men, women and children will be sleeping on streets across Australia with 2,204 of those in Victoria alone (ABS figures 2006).
“We had to turn away 39 organisations this year pleading for our study proven Backpack Beds due to the lack of funding, it’s heartbreaking.”
Mr Clark says $2.1 million in funding would cover the costs to produce enough Backpack Beds to assist the street sleeping homeless across Australia, which includes $284,000 to cover Victoria.
This year the Backpack Bed also received an Australian International Design Award and the Sydney Powerhouse Museum Design Award for innovation and benefits to its users.
From April 2012, the Clark’s Backpack Bed will be available from 90 retail stores with all proceeds going to support the continued work of Swags for Homeless.
Swags for Homeless
Swags for Homeless is a national charity with tax deductible status based in Knoxfield, Melbourne.
Swags for Homeless provides free Backpack Beds™ (swags) as an interim crisis measure to street sleeping homeless around Australia. The Backpack Bed is study proven as highly effective for homeless turned away from shelters - improving health, self esteem and most importantly dignity.
Tony Clark (founder of Swags for Homeless) and his wife Lisa invented the world first Backpack Bed™ to save the lives of homeless. The Backpack Bed is a Backpack and Bed in one - an outdoor all weather protection sleeping unit.
The success of the Backpack Bed program now has charities around the world requesting Backpack Beds - including, Germany, Poland, USA and the UK.
Testament to quality, the Backpack Bed™ resides in 2 international museums - including the worlds largest contemporary design museum in Essen, Germany and the PowerHouse Museum in Sydney, Australia.