Breaking the cycle of homelessness

Each night, more than 100,000 people are homeless in Australia. We meet people with the level of support they need—from short-term crisis accommodation to long–term housing or rent assistance for those on the brink of homelessness. Our focus is on prevention, early intervention, and providing the ongoing assistance people need to make sure their next move is forward.

Integrated support for Bowraville community

We endeavour to meet the totality of an individual’s needs and we achieve this through integrated support. In August 2018, we brought together two key community services under one roof in Bowraville: Wesley Youth Accommodation and Wesley ParentsNext. By joining together, this allows participants in each program to access other Wesley Mission services to support all their needs.

Wesley Youth Accommodation has been operating in the Coffs Harbour/Bellingen/Nambucca Valley area for over four years now and for two years in Bowraville. We’ve supported more than 100 young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness over the past year.

Wesley ParentsNext equips parents for future employment by the time their youngest child goes to school. So far referrals have come from Bowraville, Barraganyatti, Macksville and Talarm. The program operates from Bowraville two days per week making it accessible to parents living in Nambucca Valley and surrounding areas.

Halving street homelessness by 2025

We provided 105,681 nights of accommodation this year. We’re committed to ending the cycle of homelessness by standing alongside the NSW Government and signing a global agreement to halve street homelessness across the state by 2025. The signed agreement joins 13 other cities in a partnership with the Institute of Global Homelessness, becoming part of a global movement to end street sleeping through the IGH Vanguard City Program.

Wesley Mission CEO the Rev Keith V Garner AM was one of the signatories to the agreement with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and the then Minister for Social Housing Pru Goward MP, alongside other major providers. Our CEO has now become one of the founder Directors of End Street Sleeping Collaboration NSW Ltd.

We’ve also participated in the Sydney Street Count since 2009 and in more recent years, registry weeks in Sydney’s Inner City, Eastern Suburbs and Sutherland Shire, which measure the extent of homelessness.

Our commitment to end homelessness goes beyond rough sleeping. Our ‘housing first’ approach supports those experiencing homelessness with transitional accommodation provided through Wesley Community Housing tenancy assistance and in partnership with other housing providers to meet the needs of our clients across NSW.

Ten-dollar challenge changes mindsets around homelessness

For people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, stretching $10 to provide three days’ worth of food and supplies is a reality.

Wesley Homeless Food Challenge is a half-day course based around fast–paced simulation exercises and thought-provoking discussions that promote teamwork and empathy. The course offers participants the opportunity to shop for three days’ worth of food with less money than the cost of a gourmet sandwich.

Each team is given a scenario to address, such as a family living in car or a single older woman sleeping rough, and are tasked with sourcing enough food and care products to survive for three days on a limited $10 budget. At end of the session, all food and care products are donated to Wesley Connect, our Inner City food and care program which supports those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and to other Wesley Mission services.

In 2018/19, 68 groups completed the course and raised $35,430 worth of donated food and goods.

“The day was very eye–opening, giving us all a new perspective on homelessness. It’s this sort of awareness that’s really important and needed to let people know how they can help others. I have certainly come away with a greater understanding and inspiration to give back in some way in the future.” Colin, Accenture employee

Heroes unite to raise funds for Wesley Mission

Four stories of survival and bravery moved a room of donors to raise $168,000 for Wesley Homeless Services. Acclaimed journalist and ABC TV host, Leigh Sales interviewed four community heroes, Ben Farinazzo, Dana Vulin, Todd Russell and Louisa Hope at Wesley Mission’s annual fundraising luncheon, Heroes United on 25 June at Doltone House, Sydney.

Our Heroes shared their inspiring stories of overcoming adversity and how they found hope not only to survive but thrive in their lives. Despite experiencing challenging situations, each has moved forward with a great joy for life and are passionate about inspiring others to do the same.

For ten years, we’ve brought together Australians from the corporate, sporting and entertainment worlds to raise much needed funds for Wesley Homeless Services.

Supporting new cohorts, including Australian Defence Force veterans

Having a place to call home and a community to belong to are of the utmost importance to wellbeing. For many of our Australian Defence Force veterans, returning to ‘ordinary life’ and re–joining communities isn’t simple. Veterans as a cohort have too often been marginalised, many times because of the complex emotional, physical and mental health needs that can result from the burden of service.

Wesley Mission is pleased to be partnering with RSL LifeCare to deliver Homes for Heroes—an existing program dedicated to supporting veterans who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness, struggling with mental health, social isolation, post–traumatic stress disorder and substance addiction. Our combined approach is person–centred, trauma-informed and recovery–focused, and draws on our experience in delivering specialist homelessness services and clinical treatment in veteran–specific mental health programs.

Our commitment to crisis accommodation in the heart of Sydney

For more than 40 years, Wesley Edward Eagar Lodge has been offering emergency accommodation to people experiencing homelessness in the heart of Sydney. The complete refurbishment of this vital service to become the Wesley Edward Eagar Centre will significantly improve the privacy, security and level of individualised care we offer to those who walk through our doors.

To deliver this significant project, we’ve launched the Wesley Edward Eagar Centre Appeal to help raise $12 million needed to complete the works. Wesley Mission has contributed $4 million towards bringing this redevelopment to reality. For more information about how you can contribute to this important work, please view the inside back cover of this report.

Another year on, the journey forward #Needs Links – David’s story

Wesley Mission is committed to walking alongside everyone who needs us on their journey, for however long they need us. Many of our clients will receive support from one or more of our programs to achieve the goals they have for their life, across their lifetime.  Here is the next chapter in both David’s and Melissa’s journeys.

David’s next step forward

After suddenly becoming homeless in his early fifties, David found a home and future through the support of Wesley Homeless Services.

For the last two–and–a–half years, David has lived in a transitional home, provided by Wesley Community Housing while he completed training for the workforce. Now working as a fruit and veggie packer, David recently moved into a one–bedroom unit he can permanently call home.

Grateful for his Wesley Mission family, David continues to attend church and Bible study run by Chaplain, Michael Tang at Wesley Edward Eagar Lodge.

Suddenly, out of a blue sky

The loss of Suzanne’s career saw her life spiral from confident breadwinner and homeowner to struggling to make ends meet and facing homelessness. Her story describes how the knock–on effect of personal and professional setbacks can have devastating, long–lasting repercussions.

Ansett Airlines was a household name with a 65-year tradition of providing service and excellence in air transportation. The company’s greatest boast was its motivated, highly skilled staff of 15,000 nationwide. In TV commercials it wasn’t just holiday destinations that Ansett promoted—it was the high calibre of its people.

One of them was Suzanne. A former model turned flight attendant, it was Suzanne who welcomed passengers on–board a jet. She was the calm, reassuring presence that anyone who is nervous about flying prays for. But Suzanne’s life was about to be upended. On the morning of 14 September 2001, along with the rest of Ansett’s employees, she received notice that the airline had been grounded. What would later be revealed as one of Australia’s biggest corporate collapses left a swathe of human wreckage as thousands were thrown out of their jobs.

Suzanne remembers the trauma that her job loss brought into her marriage.

“My husband was out of work and things got bad. I had my own home. I owned it outright. But because my husband had no money, we borrowed against it… and anyway the house got lost. We got divorced and I had to sell it for a pittance.”

In time, Suzanne and her ex–husband reconciled. Ironically, it was only after their divorce that she learned her husband had been living with an undiagnosed mental illness—bipolar disorder.

“I didn’t know anything about bipolar. I didn’t know there was such a thing. If I had known, I wouldn’t have gotten divorced.”

With his mental illness diagnosed, they remained friends and were together all the time. Tragedy struck on Christmas Day 2014 when Suzanne’s ex–husband had passed away.

As she grieved this significant loss, Suzanne had to face a new financial urgency,

“I had to get out of my rental property. I didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing.”

Then the echo of her job loss at Ansett came back with the loss of the vital part–time job she relied on. Without family or friends to call on, the daunting Everest in life was finding next week’s rent money. To clear her mind she would take her dog Siobhan for long walks around the neighbourhood streets.

One day, stopping before a church she’d passed many times before, she did something unexpected and walked inside. In conversation with a priest, she unburdened herself of her troubles. It was a catalyst for positive change.

“He put me in touch with a lovely husband and wife and they were helpful. They’ve become like family,” Suzanne said.

Then an old friend referred her to Wesley Community Housing, which helped her access transitional housing: secure, subsidised housing for people on low incomes.

Liesa, from Wesley Community Housing, explains, “People usually stay in transitional housing for six to 18 months. It gives them a stable, safe place to live while they work with us or other support providers to find longer-term housing that meets their needs.”

The Wesley Mission Therapeutic Support team also assisted Suzanne. She moved into a cosy one–bedroom apartment. It’s close to Suzanne’s church and her support network of friends and, perhaps most importantly, it’s in a building that allows pets.

“We were lucky, because we don’t often have properties available in this building,” Liesa said. “And this one even has the little courtyard.”

Suzanne and Siobhan have lived in the flat for a year and, with Liesa’s assistance, Suzanne recently signed a lease for six more months.

It is, in Suzanne’s words, her “happy little home”, albeit a temporary one.

Wesley Community Housing is in regular contact with Suzanne and working closely with her to plan the next move towards more permanent housing.

Suzanne said she did not think she was a person who would ever ask for help in life. But Wesley Mission listened and offered support.

“I’m eternally grateful for all the lovely people within Wesley Mission I’ve dealt with,” she said. “Everyone has just been so kind and sweet and loving and offered a hand. They weren’t dismissive. They gave out love and care.”

Harrison Street blooms after makeover

Earlier this year Harrison Street looked run–down. The sheds were covered in graffiti, the gardens were overgrown, pathways were littered with debris and odd bits of furniture were scattered outside.

Harrison Street is comprised of 16 Wesley Community Housing studio units. For many residents, these units are their first stable homes since stepping out of homelessness.

While the units have been renovated internally, the surrounding outside areas were in need of a makeover.

It was an enormous task to undertake. And some Harrison Street residents didn’t believe anyone would turn up to renovate the property.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” a resident told Liesa, Community Engagement Officer, Wesley Community Housing.

When a corporate volunteer team arrived, tenants were reluctant to come out of their homes to help.

But two full skip bins later, residents stood back and admired their hard work.

“They went from being in their rooms, keeping to themselves, not wanting to get out to being excited,” said Liesa. “Even those who usually have a bit of social anxiety, came out and helped prune a tree to be part of something bigger than them.”

As they painted, cleaned and weeded the gardens, strong connections were formed between the corporate volunteers and Harrison Street tenants.

“After everyone had gone, the morale was still so high. Many said that was the best day they’d had since moving in,” said Liesa.

Not only did they transform a property, the connections built between the corporate volunteers and Harrison Street tenants are now having a long–lasting impact.

Prior to the makeover, many of the Harrison Street residents rarely spoke to each other. Since then, not only have they maintained the gardens but friendships are now blossoming between Harrison Street neighbours. Eager to develop their horticultural skills, residents recently completed a two-day gardening course coordinated by Wesley Community Housing and run by Wesley Training. Wesley Community Housing also coordinated a horticultural workshop run by the Royal Botanical Gardens to make succulent pots as thank you gifts to the volunteers.

Our corporate volunteers were so impacted by the experience they plan to return in late 2019 to continue renovating Harrison Street.

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