Sunshine Hub brings ray of light to Melbourne community
BY LERISSE SMITH
A fusion of colour, creativity and innovation featured at the opening of The Salvation Army’s new Sunshine Hub in Melbourne.
Playing a vital role in the Sunshine community and surrounding precincts, the renovated two-storey premises in Devonshire Rd, officially opened by Commissioner Miriam Gluyas, unites a range of Salvation Army services plus some other organisations, such as Centrelink that co-locates once a week, to service the local community and surrounding precincts.
And it has been an exciting time for the Youth Services West Metro team who have seen the downstairs floor transformed from an old storage room of rubbish and cobwebs to a bright, warm and welcoming Youth Hub space for all.
“It’s a beautiful space now,” said Chichi Kafula, Youth Client Services Coordinator.
“There are paintings on the walls, colourful fingerprints of younger children on the windows and doors. Downstairs is now very youth friendly.”
The Youth Hub occupies the ground level of the Sunshine Hub, while offices are located on the top floor. The services contained in the premises include homelessness (for adults); youth (which acts on behalf of an Access Point – a homelessness entry point that young people at risk of/experiencing homelessness can go to for support); an AOD (Alcohol and Other Drugs) program; Salvation Army Housing that manages its community and transitional housing properties. Additionally, there are Housing and Prison Pathways, plus child and parenting programs.
Chichi said one of the key features of the Sunshine Hub was the great culture amongst staff fostered through working collaboratively and respectfully with one another and a willingness to help each other out between programs, services and staff skills whenever required to achieve the best possible outcomes.
One such example is the youth services team, which bands together to assist local youths requiring help either physically, emotionally/mentally, financially, or a combination of the three. And the new creative Youth Hub downstairs is cause for much excitement for both staff and local youths.
“For us, the hub is our new space,” said Kass Garofalo, Youth Hub Coordinator.
“It’s about what the young people want from the space. It’s about getting input and feedback from the young people that we have coming through the hub and collecting the hard data so we can really advocate for more funding or more staffing within certain areas.”
Local youths can pop into the hub anytime during the week to have some respite, hang out, use its shower facilities if needed, cook a meal, obtain some information and support from the youth services team, and anything else they may require.
“Young people don’t need to be either engaged in our service or wanting to engage in our service. The hub is a place where young people can come just to use the facilities,” Kass said.
“We’ve got washing machines, showers, a kitchenette, as well as a big dining table and areas to relax. The hub is basically about meeting whatever need the young person who comes through the door is looking for.”
Chichi added that she found the young people who first came into the hub, especially if they were new to the youth service, often had feelings of hopelessness.
“But given the welcoming hub space that Kass has taken a lot of time to create, just seeing a smile on their faces when they walk out is just something that makes me feel proud of the work that we do,” she said.
Assistance offered to youths also includes housing support right through to filling out a form or applying for a piece of identification when having trouble digitising documents.
One source of pride for Kass and the team is being a service that will work with young people that other organisations may turn away from assisting, for a variety of reasons, due to the many connections throughout its network. The team will undertake an assessment when the young person comes in and discusses their goals, followed by advocation in the background to get the appropriate service/organisation to meet their needs and ensure they do their job.
Both Chichi and Kass said the team’s overall goal was to benefit the community in whatever way they could to assist others and focus on what they could do, not what they could not do.
And success stories help keep the momentum going.
“We had a young man come in who we supported last year. At the time when he came in, he just felt like there were no more options for him. He felt really hopeless,” Kass said.
“But then he walked in our doors a few months ago to just say thank you and that he was still in the property we helped him obtain. It’s those little things that they do remember, and when walking past (our hub), feel they can come in and just say thank you ... so, we do see that change from when they first come in and when they leave.”
One of the key issues the youth services team face regularly is housing affordability. Chichi said if they had a 16-year-old experiencing homelessness and on Centrelink, on a good day they would probably earn around $500 a fortnight that could barely see them into not even a share house, with social housing now becoming unaffordable too and in short supply. Another huge problem is early intervention, as many young people or families seek support when they are in crisis mode. The lack of mental health resources is contributing to the issue.
“The main reason for entering into our youth service is if you’re at risk of homelessness or already currently homeless, so it starts from there, and then we branch out,” Chichi said.
“If they’re at risk, we can do some work to help them stay in the home so they don’t have to end up being homeless. If they’re already homeless, we can do some work to help them obtain long-term housing, but usually the main entry reason would be at risk of or experiencing homelessness.”
Holistic case management is a key to their work, assessing all areas of the person’s life to see what can be done and addressed, with this approach resulting in lives positively transformed.
Another example is a young asylum seeker who walked through their doors and was basically the main support for his whole family as they had no work rights, no access to anything, and in rental arrears. The team was able to help the family move into another property, which they had identified already, set up house, and apply for funding for the family, plus anything else they could do to assist them.
“From the day they walked in, they were very low, very meek, very quiet, not a smile on their face,” Kass said. “Now, I run into this person (the asylum seeker) on the street, and he's made the time to stop, shake my hand, and thank me (our team).”