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Q&A with crisis accommodation worker

5 June 2017 Wesley Mission news

Dee QA WME IMGAt one of our recent corporate volunteering events, 'Wesley City Survival Challenge', we were joined by guest speaker Dee, a social worker from Wesley Edward Eagar Lodge, our crisis accommodation centre located in the heart of the inner city.

Dee opened up about what it is like for staff and residents at Wesley Edward Eagar Lodge and gave our corporate volunteers the opportunity to ask the tough questions, which led to some insightful conversations and ultimately left a lasting impression on everyone by the end of the day.

Why is there not enough housing?
People receive an allocated number of nights of housing. They bounce around different providers; they can have a day with us, a few days elsewhere but it’s not enough. These are our emergency accommodation rooms. We have rooms we let privately and we have a three month maximum. During this time we will do everything possible to find long term solutions. But we would never kick someone out on to the street.

Why don’t people choose to stay in shelters?
Because it’s safer to be on the street or outside - we have individual lockable rooms, we’re very unique that way but dorms can be considered unsafe. One lady I often speak to doesn’t like staying in accommodation as she has a severe speech impediment. When others don’t understand what she’s saying, they become agitated, she then yells and the whole situation blows up. For her, she’s happier alone and feels safe in her space.

How many of your clients have mental health challenges?
Statistics will tell you that it’s about 80% of all people who are homeless but in my experience, it’s much more. We see it every day. Right now, there are three or four people who I know need help but I cannot force them.

Do homeless people try and get a job to get out of homelessness?
There’s a lot of judgement passed on this community. We do everything we can to help them find a job; we’ll help get a suit, assist with their resume and presentation but it’s their self-worth that’s often hard to revive. They even have trouble believing they don’t smell after taking a shower. It’s very hard for people staying with us to get to the first interview let alone all the steps in employment; breakfast, shower and jump on the train isn’t so easy.

Where are their families, why can’t they help?
Some families don’t want anything to do with their ‘drug addicted child’ while for others, a life of homelessness is all they know. They’re either stuck in a cycle or have been homeless for so long they don’t remember anything else.

How do we compare to other countries with this issue, are there any studies?
Honestly, I’m not aware of any research. I think we fare well when it goes to getting people out of homelessness but when it comes to housing affordability, we’re one of the worst.

What advice would you give to people passing people on the street?
It’s up to you really. If you have money and you want to give it to them, that’s great. In some situations, a chat is all they want – that’s something we can all do. At the end of the day, they’re just doing what it takes to get by. They get allowances but it’s not enough.

What about people leaving jail, where do they go?
Here, with us. An address is a condition of release. When they don’t have one of those, Wesley Mission step in. It’s not an issue though, they are very much on their best behaviour – it’s often another condition of their release.

Do residents given help beyond a room?
During their stay, they're provided meals and accommodation but they’re expected to wash own bedding and maintain cleanliness in their room. On top of this, we offer a 'wrap around service' including case management, pastoral care, living/life skills … anything we can do to help find long term solutions.