July 13, 2018 08:09:50
Having somewhere to wash your clothes, take a shower and have a meal is something many take for granted.
For those living rough in Katherine, answering those basic needs has been a daily struggle.
That’s why in October last year the Salvation Army launched the Katherine Doorways Hub — a community space and drop-in centre to support people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness in Katherine.
It’s a one-stop shop where a person can be connected to a whole range of local services, including social supports, legal advice, financial counselling, and alcohol rehabilitation.
There is also hot food, access to showers and toilets, and free use of washing machines and dryers.
“We give away whatever we’ve got to give away, really,” said the Salvation Army’s Captain Julie Howard.
“Five days a week there’s beautiful soup and bread… so it’s improving people’s physical health because they’re having healthy food each day and they’re able to clean their clothes and clean themselves.”
The Hub is a pilot program, funded by the Northern Territory Government Department of Housing and Community Development under the Homelessness Innovation Fund.
“I think sometimes you need to actually sit back and look at what’s missing, and if you find the thing that’s missing, you can fill the gap,” Ms Howard said.
Katherine’s homeless population is more than twice the Northern Territory average, and 31 times the national average rate.
They’re also overwhelmingly Aboriginal — around one in four Indigenous people sleep rough.
Hub regular Sarah said she liked going to the hub because she felt welcome.
“They know our names, and they’re really kind. It’s very helpful in here,” she said.
“When I come in here I feel welcome inside… I know where to get hot tea, toast, watch television, or read a book.”
Years to wait for public housing
There is currently a two to six-year waiting list for public housing in Katherine, and the Hub’s numbers paint a picture of the level of need.
Between October 2017 to March 2018, people walked in the door 7,600 times.
The Hub’s case manager, Dean Jones, just returned from a trip to Adelaide where he looked at successful South Australian models that worked on the same premise.
“They’re all way ahead of us,” Mr Jones said.
“I’m surprised that Darwin doesn’t have anything already, and I was surprised that Katherine didn’t have anything before this.”
Harley Dannatt, the Hub’s coordinator, said that their service was innovative because it gave marginalised people a chance to connect with the mainstream community.
“Giving people that inroad into the community and treating people with respect, and allowing people to engage with other aspects of the community, as well as other services, is a really good first step,” he said.
July 13, 2018 07:44:37