Hundreds of homeless people in Melbourne have benefited from a simple but possibly life-changing project established by Victoria University community development students.
Three second-year students – Tania Hawkins of Sunbury, Jayne Salathiel of Bacchus Marsh, and Ann Laity of Point Cook – collected hundreds of donated toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste after recognising a need for oral care and hygiene among the city's most disadvantaged.
They encouraged local schools, businesses and community groups to help out their cause.
"As a community, we so busy trying to clothe and feed the homeless that we forget about their teeth. But without a healthy mouth, these people can't eat," said Ann.
The kits were packaged by Yooralla FirstBase in St Albans and distributed by the Father Bob Macguire Foundation food vans along with meals.
Terry O'Bryan, CEO of community health service Isis Primary Care said people from lower socio-economic backgrounds often lived with oral pain because they did not enjoy good nutrition.
"It makes it difficult for them to function and socialise because they are preoccupied with their oral hygiene," he said.
Other organisations assisted by the project included the Caroline Chisholm Society, Salvation Army Open Door, Neighbourhood Place Inc, and Salvation Army Sunbury.
The group will extend the project next year to include shampoo, soap, toilet paper and sanitary items, and donate the items to coincide with Homeless Week in August.
The students are available for interview.