A city drop-in centre which has been providing meals for disadvantaged people for the past 50 years has begun teaching its clients how to cook for themselves in a move to end welfare dependency and encourage personal empowerment.
Child Protection and Communities Minister Sue Ellery said current economic and social factors had seen the Government-funded Ruah Centre in Northbridge undergo a philosophical turnaround in the way it met the needs of its clients.
“The people who come to Ruah for help are often seriously affected by substance abuse and/or mental health issues and are completely isolated, with many being banned from other services because of their complex needs and challenging behaviour,” Ms Ellery said.
“In October last year, the centre stopped serving meals after realising that its funding would be better spent providing intensive case-by-case support for people, rather than simply feeding them every day.
“The decision to change the service model was based on international research on the benefits of non-passive welfare, which involves working alongside people to improve their independence and break the cycle of homelessness rather than giving them handouts.
“Basic services like laundry and access to phones are still available at Ruah but rather than providing cooked meals, the centre now teaches people how to cook for themselves.”
Ruah Centre co-ordinator Michael Sheehan said factors such as WA’s housing affordability crisis and increasing substance abuse problems had been the catalyst for the centre’s new direction.
“About 50 people a day come here and since redirecting our funding into providing more support, we have been able to case manage a much greater number of these people,” Mr Sheehan said.
“While initially some of our clients weren’t happy about losing the meals service, an evaluation of the new service model has shown that this is a much better way to go.
“Homeless people can still obtain meals from a number of other agencies in Perth but it is clearly more productive for Ruah to focus on helping people get off the streets and into permanent housing.”
The Ruah Centre receives annual funding of more than $300,000 from the State and Commonwealth Governments’ Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP), and is overseen by the Daughters of Charity.
Mr Sheehan said that with the help of a $20,000 one-off SAAP grant, the centre had been able to test the effectiveness of its new approach.
“The results have been outstanding,” he said.
“With the centre choosing to support and help house people rather than just feed them, it has become more effective with a far greater capacity for intensive case management.
“Overall, this has led to more holistic outcomes for our clients.”
Ms Ellery said while many Western Australians were benefiting from WA’s economic boom, the State Government recognised that others were being left behind.
“The Government is committed to addressing homelessness and delivering more affordable housing for all Western Australians and is responding to this issue in a number of ways,” she said.
“It is contributing more than $19million in funding each year to SAAP and in 2006 we committed an extra $13.3million to refuges over four years - a 10 per cent increase in State funding.
“Also, the Government’s $238million housing affordability package will target low income public housing, crisis accommodation, and land supply in regional areas.”
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