THOSE most in need in Byron Bay felt the warmth of the community literally yesterday when new jeans were handed out at the Byron Community Centre.
The centre has been collecting jeans for the homeless for the past month, with about 150 pairs donated by the public, while local fashion retailer Island Luxe donated an additional 70 pairs of luxury jeans that would usually retail for hundreds of dollars.
Not only do the jeans provide much-needed protection from the elements in winter, they are a gift of care and respect, the centre's community services manager Cat Seddon said.
"The idea with jeans for the homeless was to look after our homeless and to make them feel valued and supported by the community," she said.
"It's winter and we are getting people turning up in shorts. When people get cold and wet they can get sick.
"Winter is a rough time for rough sleeping.
"Jeans for the homeless is a way for the community to help and connect."
The jeans were handed out at the weekly homeless breakfast the community centre held on Wednesday morning and more jeans will be distributed at today's Liberation Larder lunch between noon-2pm.
As many as 90 regulars attend the breakfast each week, Ms Seddon said, indicating how widespread homelessness is in the Bay.
"Byron Bay has a lot of wealth but there is an underbelly that people do not realise," she said.
"We are handing out between five and 10 sleeping swags a week.
"If you become homeless in Byron Bay, there is nowhere safe and dry to sleep.
"If someone is in crisis, where can they go? There is only the hospital or us, the Byron Community Centre."
Ms Seddon said stereotypes around homelessness need to be challenged.
"People think the homeless are choosing to live this way and that only older, alcoholic men with beards become homeless," she said.
"Actually, one of the growing demographics of homelessness is middle-aged women."