St Bart’s

Posted by editor 28/01/2014 0 Comment 3362 views

St Bart's Perth

A wizard idea in Oz, St Bart’s provides help where it is needed most. Danielle Aumord reports

Welcome to St Bartholomew’s – or St.Bart’s for short. The mission plan here is to eliminate homelessness in Perth, Western Australia (WA) with a special focus on the poorer members of the aged community. Many of the residents here suffer from mental health issues and also what is known as ‘wet brain’ as a result of systematic alcohol abuse.

In Australia there is no legistlation to state that everyone has to be housed. Many people, through addiction, marital breakdown, unemployment and the likes, crash headlong into a crisis situation. A group that St Bart’s cater for that is particularly vulnerable are the clients within their aged project.

John Beger, 49, director of St. Barts, explains how the aged project works: “40 spaces are available for clients within the age care hostel. On this side of the water, age care generally works as follows: Older and elderly persons in need of supported housing cash in their homes to enable them to access the care and the services that they need.”

However St. Barts works differently, they provide specialist provision because none of their clients has a home available or the collateral needed to get into one of the mainstream ‘aged’ homes. Residents here simply pay 25 per cent of their government pension to access care services and to reside here.

It’s a good thing, because otherwise many of these vulnerable souls would be sleeping rough: “I have a strong conviction around social justice. It stems from my Christian belief which also is essentially the driver behind the vision here,” explains Beger.

St Barts was launched over 50 years ago through the Anglican Church – who utilised an old rectory to provide what Beger describes as “congregate care”.

Essentially this is a communal room with mattresses on the floor for homeless men all aged over 50 years. St Barts operate a non-discriminatory policy, accepting persons of all faiths or no faith to utilise their services. “I believe that everyone has a right to a fair go,” adds Beger.

Australian social housing is limited with an estimated 2-year waiting list and so isn’t an option for everyone. Perth is growing at a rate of approximately 50,000 people per annum and the infrastructure is certainly not growing at the same place, creating a gap through which many people fall. The lack of rental properties is driving up prices for private renting and as a result is exacerbating the housing issues in general.

A social security or what is known as a ‘centre link payment’ over here doesn’t really cut it when it comes to covering the cost of private rental payments let alone the care services that many of the aged clients here need. Laura Yau, the Community Manager, points out an elderly man suffering with Alzheimer’s. He had been dumped on the doorstep of St Bart’s by a relative who promised to come back but never did. He’s just one of the residents that St Barts is bridging the gap for. They provide safe, secure accommodation for aged persons that need specialist care services, but aren’t able to go private.

Many of the others residents suffering from nerve affected diseases stemming from alcohol addiction. People can re-build their lives here at St Bart’s, whatever stage of life they are at. Social activities are plentiful for residents, as well as essential health services. It’s a pleasant environment despite the many sad tales that residents have to tell. It’s is a rarity amongst all the other services for this aged, and you wonder what might happen if it weren’t here.


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