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16 December 2021
Ongoing support opens new doors for Carley
Words Holly Reed, Pallavi Singhal, and Naomi Singlehurst
When the Salvos first began supporting Carley*, she was living in highly insecure housing with her three children.
“Carley and the children all slept in one room,” says Belinda, Salvation Army Housing case manager in regional Victoria. “They didn’t have access to the lounge room, and another woman was also boarding there. They were treated very poorly and the living conditions were unsafe. This was having a significant impact on the children’s health and wellbeing.
“[Her] son Mark* has autism, epilepsy, and a heart condition and receives treatment for his heart through the children’s hospital one hour away. Mark also needed local support services set up, including pediatrician, physio, speech therapy, and more.”
Belinda and the team first placed the family into a motel before moving them into short-term crisis accommodation. The Salvos team supplied toys, games, clothing, food, and vouchers.
To provide respite for Carley and social stimulation for Mark, the team also enrolled Mark in childcare and offered advocacy and support for Carley to apply for, and gain, a private rental close to the local school, shops, and public transport.
For Belinda, the passion for supporting others grew directly out of her own experience.
“I was homeless from the age of about 15 and lived in transitional housing for about two years before going into public housing,” she shares. “I had support from a number of areas, including the Salvos. They helped with food and the occasional bill. They also helped with furniture to set up my first home in public housing.”
Belinda was inspired to go on to help others and says: “I had a really good rapport with my youth worker at the time and admired what she did. I did my Certificate IV in Youth Work and then eventually moved on to my Diploma in Social Work. I wouldn’t have been able to manage that without the external support.”
Today she loves to be able to offer Christmas gifts and food to the community members she works with, remembering her first few Christmases years ago, as a teen, all alone, caring for her baby daughter.
“I’ve now been in my current role with The Salvation Army for 11 years and love being in a position to support others and make a difference in their lives and their children’s lives. I feel privileged.”
Belinda says that providing layers of care, from essential housing to help with furniture, Christmas, and back-to-school care, all help build stability.
Last Christmas, the housing services team had to find solutions to get care to their community members as COVID-19 lockdowns occurred.
“Normally our service hosts a Christmas party,” Belinda says. “We couldn’t do that in 2020, but still wanted to give as much cheer as possible within the restrictions, so we [delivered] Christmas gifts and hampers to them in our decked-out minibus. It’s a really special time of year and we wanted the kids to have that sense of Christmas wonder.”
One of the highlights for Belinda was seeing joy on the faces of community members – especially Carley’s four-year-old son, Mark.
“Mark had never seen Santa in a shopping centre or anywhere. His response when ‘Santa’ arrived at his place in our van was absolute delight. Seeing his little face and the happiness of the other children was so moving,” Belinda says.
“Seeing a family get to this point is amazing and, while they still have a long way to go, the family needed that stability to begin to work on the underlying issues. Making sure they had access to schooling, food and medical treatment, plus some help with Christmas and back-to-school, helped set them on a really good path to continue to improve the quality and stability of their lives.”
* Names and identifying details have been changed.