ANU students keeping the homeless warm this winter

7 May 2018

A group of ANU students who started collecting winter coats and accessories for Canberra's homeless in 2017 are at it again, looking for not only coats but volunteers to help them distribute the warm clothing over the next few months.

The Take One, Leave One: The Winter Coat Project was founded by four ANU students - including ANU College of Asia and the Pacific (CAP) graduates Jenna Allen and Dylan O'Beirne, and current students Lauren Dreyar (from the ANU College of Law), and Bhavani Kannan (from CAP) with a view to improving the lives of those in need during Canberra's characteristically long, cold winters.

The simple concept involves members of the community donating old coats, via donation bins. The bins are cleared regularly and the coats are then cleaned, repaired and rehomed via clothes racks set up at locations across the city. The racks are in places accessible to homeless people, allowing them to browse at their convenience.

"Jenna saw a video on facebook last year of a similar project overseas and she thought that it was something that could be really beneficial to do in Canberra especially as we are quite a small community with a high rate of people experiencing homelessness," the project's co-founder Lauren Dreyar said.

"The original idea was to have a clothing rack that people could donate to and then people could take one and then leave one.

"But we adapted the concept to suit Canberra because a lot of the people who we're collecting donations from are not the same people operating in the same areas and same social circles as the people who might be in need of a coat.

"Instead we have a take one clothing rack where we set up the donations at different services assisting people experiencing homelessness and then we have the leave one donation bins."

The bins - identified by their bright green lids - are located at the ANU College of Law foyer, the Food Co-op and Shop on Kingsley Street and at Belconnen Community Centre.

Lauren, who is currently studying her final year of Juris Doctor at the ANU College of Law, said advocacy is something she has always been passionate about.

"I've done other volunteering work but a lot of other things I've been involved in through World Vision or other organisations has predominately been focused on vulnerable individuals overseas," she said.

"Implementing this in our own community and helping people that we see in our own community, when we're out and about in the city - is something I've never been able to be involved with.

"The idea of being able to really affect people that are around us and get the community involved was something that I really wanted to be part of."

Last year's efforts, collected from April to September, saw 400 items collected from across the ANU and Canberra communities and redistributed among Canberra's needy. Those items included beanies, socks, blankets, gloves and scarves as well as coats.

This year the group is aiming for 1,000 garments.

"The weather is just starting to get cold so it's been quite slow up until now so we'll just push everything back a little bit," she said.

People can donate to the three locations from now until late August-early September. The winter garments are regularly distributed across locations in Canberra.

"Our most popular site so far has been the Belconnen Community Service. In the first two days of having the bin there, it was full."

The Belconnen Community Service is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, while the Food Co-Op and Shop is open on weekends from 10am to 4pm and Monday to Friday, from 10am to 7pm.

For more details on donating a coat or to volunteer your time to help the students with the project, check out the Take One, Leave One facebook page ( or email