1 March 2023

Wagga Salvos publicly launch Australia-first service delivery program

| Travis Radford
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The Sallyman provided refreshments to community members who attended The Salvation Army’s public launch for the Doorways program on Tuesday. Photo: The Salvation Army Wagga Wagga.

The Salvation Army Wagga Wagga has publicly launched its innovative new service delivery program, Doorways, to support people in need.

Wagga Wagga Mayor Dallas Tout, 17 local service providers and 45 community members were among those who attended the barbecue lunch this week.

The program has been quietly launched twice so far this year, but Salvation Army Wagga Wagga Corps Officer Auxiliary Lieutenant David Hopewell (who also served as part of the live entertainment on the public launch day, singing and playing guitar) said this week was the community’s turn to become involved.

Lt Hopewell said when the program officially launched to a select group of MPs and service providers in February, it expanded on its signature element – face-to-face assessments.

“We are actually cutting edge,” he said. “We’re the first [Salvation Army] in the country [to offer face-to-face assessments for Doorways].”

Doorways Coordinator Jen Cameron said while it was too early to draw conclusions from the period since the official launch, there were positive signs.

“We probably noticed more contact, with other service providers bringing their clients for assessments here,” she said.

“Over the next month or so, we’d probably re-evaluate our data and just sort of see whether there has been a bigger change and so forth in connections with community.”

Lt Hopewell said the method introduced through COVID of “handing a bag of food through a window” was impersonal, whereas having discussions restored dignity.

“We’ve come to the conclusion that telephone assessments are probably not the best way to go and that people actually need that human contact and interaction,” he said.

“Which is one of the reasons why the funding is now available to be able to employ case workers and to employ assessors.”

Two additional support staff have been employed for Wagga’s Doorways Program since the official launch, with one remaining case worker position to be filled.

“People can actually sit with a person to tell their story and discuss their immediate needs, to be assessed for emergency relief funding,” Lt Hopewell said.

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However, the holistic program also seeks to address the reasons why people are seeking help.

“It’s discussing why they need to come and access emergency relief … is it something that we can help them with further down the track?” Lt Hopewell said.

“So that maybe that need is not there any longer and we can help them work their way through that.”

Lt Hopewell said case workers could also refer people to other services, such as housing.

Ms Cameron said data collected since the program’s soft launch in January revealed “inadequate types of housing,” such as couch surfing, were among the factors driving the uptake of the Doorways program, alongside increased cost of living, higher levels of homelessness and family and domestic violence.

She said over the next month, she wanted to break the stigma of receiving assistance and reach out to more struggling community members.

“My prediction would be that we would see more and more community members accessing this type of service,” she said.

“We also have an affordable food bank. So it just supports the high, increased [cost of] food and so forth at the supermarket.”

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The Salvation Army’s low-cost pantry – a component of the Doorways Program – has both free items that have been donated and low-cost items bought by the Salvos for resale.

“They may be paying $10 for a bag of food or a bag of items off our pantry shelf and they’ll usually get about $35 to $40 worth of items in that bag,” said Lt Hopewell.

He suggested any community members interested in donating to the pantry choose non-perishable items, such as pasta or tea and coffee.

Lt Hopewell also invited community members to volunteer for the Salvos.

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