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Kwinana’s new centre eases the heartbreak for struggling families


Captains Gavin and Jodie Jones, with WA Divisional Support Officer Major Peter Wood cutting the ribbon to open the community centre.
By ANTHONY CASTLE

Captain Jodie Jones said she was heartbroken to see the growing needs of people struggling to make ends meet in the Kwinana and South Metro region of Western Australia, so she knew something had to be done.


The result is the Kwinana and South Metro Corps* Community Centre and Toastee Spot Free Cafe, which was officially opened on the corps site on Friday 28 April.


Jodie said she and her husband, Captain Gavin Jones, came up with the concept for a community hub by speaking with people who were doing it tough. Jodie said helping others had always been “heavy on her heart”, and she wanted to find a way to “alleviate people’s struggles and suffering”.


“We saw parents choose to give up their children; that was my breaking point,” Jodie said. “We had linked these parents in with a case worker, but they just couldn’t find safe housing. For those parents, the best option was to hand back their children to DCP [Department for Child Protection] and then choose to live in their car. It was heart-wrenching. I realised then that we had to do something, do what we can with what we’ve got.”


Captain Jodie Jones, Feed it Forward volunteer Judith Maika and Founder/CEO Monica Morunga checking out the newly acquired fridge to help keep donated fresh produce fresh.

About 60 people attended the centre opening, including community members, support services from the South Metro region, and councillors from both Kwinana and Cockburn city councils.


Jodie said the rising costs of living, and neighbouring mission expressions closing down, saw an increase in people coming to The Salvation Army for assistance.


“We had already identified the need through those accessing our emergency relief,” Jodie said. “The Salvation Army Social Justice Stocktake provided us with the stats and the data that we took when we spoke with council and politicians. Some of the need we are seeing is post-COVID, but some of it is our changing economic status as a country.”


A rising cost of living is seeing a dramatic increase in need across the Kwinana and South Metro region. Rising inflation, stagnant wages, and a housing crisis is resulting in more and more facing financial hardship and potential homelessness.


“We’re seeing community members come to us who have never had to seek help before,” Jodie said. “Yes, we have homelessness and family domestic violence that’s increased; we have people under increased mortgage stress who are coming to see us. There are good tenants who are employed who are suffering housing stress because their tenancy is coming to an end.”


YouthCare School Chaplaincy representatives Susan Hislop and Lana Hayes with Captain Jodie Jones in front of the Appreciation Wall at the centre, featuring the logos of corporate supporters.

Kwinana Salvation Army has been a place where the community has found support for many years, accessing emergency relief food parcels, food, fuel and clothing vouchers, Christmas Cheer gifts, hampers and vouchers. The new community centre is designed to meet the new needs arising in the community.


“It’s happening so much in the area,” Jodie said. “We hear things like, ‘What happens if our rent goes up? Which bill do I pay? I have to pay my rent, so I won’t pay my car rego or have my medication’. We only find out these extra needs at out when we build relationships.”


Vulnerable people in the operating area come from Baldivis to Fremantle, and their needs include people experiencing homelessness, domestic violence, family breakdown, food insecurity, mental illness and loneliness. Other ongoing needs are accessible showers, haircuts, medical access and internet access.


“Food is one of the increasing requests,” Jodie said. “Someone presents and says, ‘There’s no food’, that’s the easiest thing to respond to. The more we build relationships with people, the more we discover additional needs including medication, getting children into the doctors, because they’re paying rent or mortgage at all costs.”


Kwinana and South Metro Salvos will continue to collaborate with other providers and supporters to add to the services and facilities that people need, with long-term goals to grow the work that the Community Centre provides.


The corps’ Red Shield Appeal goal this year is to raise $15,000 for continued food hampers and to install a shower for public use in the community centre.


Warren Palmer (WA Public Relations Secretary), Derek Tickner (long-time member of Kwinana and South Metro Salvation Army), and Major Peter Wood (WA Divisional Support Officer).

“We couldn’t solve the whole problem for that family [living in their car],” Jodie said. “We couldn’t pull housing out of our pocket, but our centre was able to help with connections to supports. This is what we do with the centre, and we will grow it as we can. That’s what’s so special about our community centre – for people to connect and feel safe. We don’t just hand out a food parcel; we are about creating a place of hope. No one needs to struggle alone. We’re here for you.”


The Community Centre and Toastee Spot Free Cafe, located at 57 Medina Ave, is open from 8am to 1pm on Tuesdays and Fridays.


* Kwinana & South Metro Salvation Army is the new name being adopted by Kwinana Salvation Army to better reflect the extensive area (parts of Rockingham, Baldivis, Kwinana, Cockburn, Melville, East Fremantle and Fremantle) that the group operates in.


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