Houses for homelessness reopen in ACT after renovations
The Salvation Army in the Australian Capital Territory has repurposed two of its properties for families experiencing homelessness.
The houses had been part of the Salvos’ addiction recovery program in Canberra but closed after being severely damaged during hailstorms in 2020. Restoration work valued at over $100,000 was completed last month and the houses fully furnished with the help of private donations.
The houses were officially opened on 14 March 2023 by Ms Alicia Payne MP, Federal Member for Canberra. In her address, Ms Payne said that the ACT had the highest rate of long-term homelessness in the country and that it was an honour for her to open the houses for homelessness.
“Housing is a human right,” she said. “Without a safe and stable home, how can you live with any kind of dignity or hope or order in your life? I want to congratulate everyone involved in preparing the homes for occupancy. I really want to acknowledge the work that The Salvation Army does every day here in Canberra, around the country and internationally. You are such a trusted space for people in need.”
Also addressing the launch was Major Peter McGuigan, The Salvation Army’s Head of Government Relations for Australia, who spoke of the origins of the Salvos’ work with people experiencing homelessness.
“Some of you will know of Salvation Army Founder William Booth’s famous words to his son Bramwell about homelessness in London in the late 19th century. Bramwell had observed people sleeping rough under London’s bridges. ‘Go and do something,’ he said. ‘We must do something.’ And Bramwell, with help from many others, set up what would become the first of many Salvation Army hostels for homeless people in an old London tram shed.
In a sense, ‘do something’ has been The Salvation Army’s philosophy ever since,” Peter said. “And it’s the reason we are here today – doing something about families experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness right here in the ACT.
“In a recent survey conducted by The Salvation Army across Australia, affordable housing was the highest concern expressed by Canberrans. Australia-wide, it is significant right now and is linked with rapid increases in the cost of living and people experiencing poverty. It is estimated that there are as many as 1600 people in the ACT experiencing homelessness and over 100,000 Australia-wide.”
Captain Tara McGuigan, Assistant Public Relations Secretary for NSW/ACT, brought an Acknowledgement of Country and welcomed people to the opening. In her opening remarks, she linked the new initiative to the Salvos’ vision statement:
“The Salvation Army’s vision in Australia really creates the context for what we are doing here today: ‘Wherever there is hardship or injustice, Salvos will live, love and fight, alongside others, to transform Australia one life at a time with the love of Jesus.’” She later prayed a blessing over the houses.
Before the opening event, Kristie Clifton, Manager for the Salvos’ homelessness services in NSW/ACT, spoke of the collaboration in preparing the houses and making them fit for purpose. “We have had lots of support from community members and organisations, the participants and staff from our own Canberra Recovery Services, our Doorways program staff, and other Salvation Army entities in the ACT,” she said.
“The objective of the housing is to support families with their accommodation needs while they access the services and support required to transition into long-term sustainable housing. The Salvation Army will provide case management and other assistance during the transition period.”
Alicia Payne MP also cut a cake prepared especially for the event. Attendees included representatives from Salvation Army mission expressions in Canberra, other organisations and the media.