Helping hands for the homeless

When Deniz Marchmont’s daughter, Narece, burst into tears at the plight of Melbourne’s homeless, both knew they had to do something to help.  By chance they came across a YouTube video featuring people crocheting mats out of cut-up plastic shopping bags, and the Facebook group Plastic Bag Sleeping Mats For The Homeless was born.

“I have a friend, Indi, who was living on the street and that got the spark started,” says Deniz, a registered nurse from Sandhurst.  “We had a weekend in the city for Narece’s birthday and she was quite confronted by the homeless situation.  She burst into tears and said ‘You’ve got to do something, Mum; this is insane what’s happening’.  So we came home, did some research, came across the video and put the Facebook group together.”

That was in April.  The group now has 1500 members from across the Peninsula and as far away as Queensland, from school students to retirees.  Between them they collect the bags, cut them into strips, loop the strips together to make plastic yarn – or plarn – and crochet the plarn into mats, which are then handed out to the homeless through the Port Melbourne-based charity Anonymous X.

It takes 600-700 plastic bags and about 40 hours to make one mat, but it can literally mean the difference between life and death.  Indi has spent 16 weeks in hospital with third-degree pressure sores on his spine from sleeping rough; other homeless people have fared even worse.  “How can someone close to my heart suffer like that when having one of my mats could have saved him from that,” Deniz says.  “People think we’re just trying to make homeless people more comfortable - no, we’re saving people’s lives.”

One of the first to join the group was Lilly Guglielmino, of Frankston, who has become Deniz’s 2IC.  “As soon as I saw (the group) I thought I have to join it,” Lilly says.  “It just really touched my soul.”

Anyone is welcome to join the group.  Its Facebook page has videos on how to cut the shopping bags into strips, tie them together to create plarn and crochet the plarn into mats, but your involvement can be as simple as collecting the bags.  Find out more at