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3 September 2022
Victor with Salvos officer Major Narelle Jacobsen, says the Salvos at The Well at St Kilda Chapel saved his life.
My name is Victor, and I am writing to share my experience at The Well at St Kilda Chapel, Melbourne, and Salvos officer (pastor) Major Narelle Jacobsen who runs it.
In 2018, I retired from a lengthy career in emergency services, moved to Thailand and started a couple of tourism-related businesses. They were both quite successful, and I had more than 100 employees at one point.
Unfortunately, when COVID-19 hit, the tourists quit coming, and both companies ceased operations. I felt that I was well-prepared for this, and although all of my employees were eventually laid off, I continued to help them financially for a year until funds ran out. Nobody could have predicted that the pandemic would last as long as it did, and I eventually found myself stuck in a foreign country with no means of financial support.
I also found that I was ineligible for COVID assistance from either the Thai or Australian governments. My only option was to ask the Australian Government to repatriate me, which they did, but at a cost of more than $5000, including quarantine fees.
Upon release from the two weeks of quarantine, I found myself significantly in debt, penniless and literally living under a bridge. I was also less than a week away from losing everything I owned due to not being able to pay to store those things. Everything was to be sold at auction within a few short days.
A friend contacted Major Jacobsen, who met with me one day, listened to my story with patience and compassion, ensured I was fed, and took me to a Salvation Army facility where I could shower, do laundry and sleep indoors. She was also instrumental in dealing with the storage facility and keeping my possessions from being sold.
These were the first critical steps in my recovery from the situation I genuinely believed would kill me. Before meeting her, I had given up and simply accepted the fact that I’d likely be found dead under that bridge one day. Later, additional steps were taken to find me a sustainable place to live, medical treatment and so on.
Although things took almost a year in total, I now once again have my own unit to live in, have full-time employment, am currently on top of my bills and paying off my debts to the government.
None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for Major Jacobsen and her team at The Well, in addition to the other Salvo employees and volunteers. Although I am not a Christian, the phrase “Thank God for the Salvos” seems quite appropriate in this instance. Major Jacobsen and the others are truly lifesavers in the most literal way.
My sincerest thanks to her and all the others too numerous to name individually.