WHEN Gary Parsisson first began working with homeless people, volunteer numbers were slim.
"Now, I get emails and phone calls every day," the executive director of Reach Homeless Services said. "I've already had three, four, maybe five today."
It was only 2:00pm when I spoke to Gary and offers of charity seemed to be coming through steadily even as we spoke. Reach runs a meal service on Friday nights in Hamilton and Saturdays in Maitland.
The team, which includes chefs, servers and people who sit with homeless recipients, are now well into the dozens.
"There's been a whole heap of interest lately," Gary said. "There is so much more reporting of the impact of interest rate increases and the cost of living."
The ages of volunteers have been getting younger, too. 12-year-old Erin Fitchett forewent birthday presents this year, instead asking her friends to donate items to Reach for people in need.
On Friday night, the group from the Hunter School of Performing Arts delivered them together.
"We went to Hamilton, and me and my friends were able to help the homeless by giving out the things we donated," Erin said.
"The homeless don't deserve to have nothing. They deserve to have lots of appliances and food."
The group of six - armed with donations from another friend who couldn't make it on the day - took sanitary items, food like pasta and cans, "plus lots of soaps and shampoo".
"We told [each person] they could take anything they wanted," Erin said said. "I just talked to them like normal people, because they are."
And she had an important message for other kids who may be thinking about doing the same.
"Homeless people are just an important as you are. Treat them with respect because they deserve it," Erin said.
Erin's mum, Aya, found out about Reach when searching online. The family are new to the area having moved from Sydney earlier this year.
"Erin didn't need more things," she said. "This was special."
Aya said volunteering had been a helpful perspective shift for her daughter.
"She met a little boy about her age with [his uncle]," Aya said. "I think it was eye-opening for Erin to actually see people in action and people coming up and appreciating things being handed over to them.
"The kids enjoyed shopping knowing this was going to the homeless people. The kids helped to give out the things they brought it. They really liked it, enjoyed it and it was important."
"[Cost of living] is now more of a focus [for] students. It's on TV. People are struggling and they see it.
"I've got a primary school that are doing a Christmas hamper drive. I'm talking to them on the day they break up," he said.
"For a kid, that perspective is really hard to get," he said, speaking of his own teenage daughter who didn't realise the luxuries she had when her dad worked a corporate job several years ago.
"That's the thought process; we're not well off because everyone has these things," he said. "But it's not the case.
"There's no concept of what abnormal is."
And where volunteers increase, need grows also. Gary used to only see people who were homeless file through for dinner on a Friday night. Now, families who can't afford the cost of groceries are also attending.
The team at Reach will serve a cooked meal on Christmas, which already has dozens of volunteers signed up. Gary implored people to remember those with less than them in the festive season.
"A lot of people don't understand that homelessness isn't Monday to Friday, nine to five," Gary said. "Because we operate outside those business hours, our volunteers are finished their days work. They're ok to give a couple of hours."
A list of products commonly required by Reach can be found on their website.