Hub offers hope for  homeless

By Niccola Anthony

The Salvation Army has launched a new community hub, which aims to take a multifaceted approach to tackling the issue of rough sleeping in the CBD.

Partnering with Ambulance Victoria, City of Melbourne and Victoria Police, the new social program will utilise the resources of all four institutions to provide assistance to Melbourne’s homeless population.

The program was officially launched on September 5 outside The Salvation Army Melbourne’s 614 Project premises, adjacent to its 69 Bourke Street office.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp delivered a rousing speech in support of the initiative, as did The Salvation Army’s Major Brendan Nottle, Corps Officer of the Melbourne 614 Project.

“Sometimes, when we look at entrenched issues or wicked problems such as homelessness, we think that what we’ve done in the past will still work today,” Major Nottle explained about the reasons behind the initiative.

“We had an idea about dealing with an entrenched problem and the wonderful thing about working in the City of Melbourne is that you can put yourself out there and there will be someone somewhere who will say ‘sounds weird but we’ll give it a go. We’ll jump in and support it’.”

Major Nottle expressed gratitude to Victoria Police and Ambulance Victoria at the launch for their involvement in the initiative and willingness to assist Melbourne’s homeless population.

“These are people who actually want the best for our city, especially our most vulnerable. We don’t always see that reflected in the media, but they want the best,” said Major Nottle.

The launch was also used as an opportunity to present the official report for the organisation’s Concierge Program, an initiative established to address the significant increase of rough sleepers around the vicinity of 69 Bourke St and the flow-on effects for businesses and local residents.

The Concierge Program acts as a pathway for those struggling with long-term homelessness and unemployment to re-enter the workforce while receiving high-level welfare support.

Workers in the program utilise peer networks to approach rough sleepers and offer to accompany them for a meal or coffee at Project 614’s Magpie Nest Cafe.

From this initial meeting, rough sleepers can then access the support services provided by The Salvation Army at its 69 Bourke St office.

According to The Salvation Army’s estimates, each day around 500 rough-sleepers pass through the laneway adjacent to Project 614 and around 2000 lunches are prepared by staff at Magpie Nest Cafe. 

Cheryl Cahill, known as Chez to her Salvation Army family, has been volunteering with the Salvos for 17 years and was asked to join the Concierge Program as a worker around eight months ago. 

Speaking at the launch, Chez reflected on her own decision to become a Concierge worker and inspire others to “put on” the Salvos shirt.

“One of the reasons I took on the job was because I believed in the pain and suffering that [Major Nottle] and his family went through to bring me across to the other side. I believed in life that I could do the same, even if it was only for one homeless person,” Chez said.

On the new Community Hub, Chez was visibly moved by the coming together of community organisations in the name of helping Melbourne’s most vulnerable.

“This is the best thing ever. We’ve got Victoria police, Ambulance Victoria. The good thing about today was we were all one,” said Chez.

“We can all be one; work for one another, help one another and make sure that the homeless get the love they deserve and feel worthy.”

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