FOR people who spend each day not knowing where their next meal is coming from or if they'll find somewhere warm to sleep that night, a hot meal and a kind word can make a huge difference.
And the South Grafton man known as Muddy reckons he gets all this and more at the South Grafton New School of Arts Neighbourhood House soup kitchen where he's a regular face in queue.
This week marks National Homeless Persons' Week and the Neighbourhood House, which provides free meals from the soup kitchen and support and information for those less fortunate, will be the focal point of many activities to be held during the week.
Muddy was one of about 20 people who turned up for a free meal at the kitchen yesterday for the opening day of National Homeless Persons' Week.
Feeling unwell, Muddy said the steaming bowl of chicken soup he was given (not to mention the smiles and friendly conversation from the kitchen volunteers) not only nourished him but also gave a crucial boost to morale which, he said, could be a life or death factor to people in his situation.
The events at the Neighbourhood House this week form just part of the Homeless Persons' Week activities in the Valley co-ordinated by the council and a range of government and not-for-profit agencies. Activities will also include sleep-outs in Grafton and Maclean, information sessions and the launch of the council's new Affordable Rental Housing Scheme and more.
Council deputy general manager Des Schroder said 190 Valley residents were listed in the 2006 Census as being homeless.
"It's to make people aware of the plight of homeless people, so people can understand what it's like to be in that situation," Mr Schroder said.
"It becomes a really big inter-agency co-operative thing so you get all the agencies working together to raise awareness of what services they can offer people in this situation."
National Homeless Persons' Week will end this Sunday.
Homeless Persons' Week 2012 Activities
Wednesday: Free community lunch, information stalls and music from Old n Gold at the South Grafton New School of Arts.
Thursday: Information sessions and stalls from CRANES, Anglicare, New Horizons, CHESS and more at Yamba Centrelink from 9am onwards.
Friday: Free lunch from noon at the Neighbourhood House.
Launch of the Council's Affordable Rental Housing Project from 1pm at 3 Pullen Close, Grafton.
Sleep out at the South Grafton New School of Arts from 5pm - food, music, face painting and more.