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God opening doors for the homeless at Rockdale Salvos

God opening doors for the homeless at Rockdale Salvos

God opening doors for the homeless at Rockdale Salvos

31 May 2017

John, who is experiencing homelessness, chats with Major Janet Siddens at Rockdale Salvation Army’s Foyer Ministry.
Photo: Lauren Martin

By Lauren Martin

A man experiencing homelessness has been offered a job and another is closer to securing housing, all because of a God-led ministry operating out of Rockdale Salvation Army.

Rockdale Salvos’ Foyer Ministry has been operating for the past four years, offering visitors to the complex, which contains a Salvos Store and a Salvation Army corps, a welcoming place to have a coffee and a chat.

During a 24-7 prayer week about a year ago, God spoke to Corps Officer, Major Romona Kinder, saying that the corps needed to put in a shower and a laundry in a disused men’s changeroom in the complex. “So I mentioned it to Paul [Kinder, Major] and a few others and within three days we had a laundry,” she says. “God really provided that for us. In the partnership with Salvos Stores, they were able to help us with a washing machine and someone from the corps initially gave us a dryer.”

Word soon began to spread about the Rockdale Salvation Army’s shower and laundry facilities, and locals experiencing homelessness began to turn up in greater numbers at the foyer.

Rockdale sits on the southern tip of Inner Sydney, parallel to the well-to-do café and restaurant strip of Brighton-le-Sands, Ramsgate and Sans Souci, which overlook Botany Bay. What’s not well-known outside the local area is the scale of homelessness in the area, with people sleeping on beaches, in their cars, in local carparks and under trees in parks.

Seventy-year-old John is one of the people experiencing homelessness who regularly uses Rockdale Salvation Army’s facilities. “I was down on me luck and I left home,” he says after putting on a load of washing and grabbing himself a coffee. “I lived in the bush for a while. Then I went to a caravan park at Heathcote. I was still laying bricks. I used to get up and go lay bricks. But then at Christmas time [last year] I got hit by a car in Ramsgate. And I went to hospital but I got myself out of there straight away. My hip’s good now but I still can’t walk properly. I can’t go back to work.”

When his injury forced him to stop working he went back to living in his car. The Salvation Army in Rockdale has been able to assist with groceries and helping him obtain the pension. He also gets his mail delivered there.

“They’re really good here,” he says, talking about the Foyer Ministry team.

The team had been operating for about four years, offering tea and coffee and a friendly chat, as well as Moneycare Financial Counselling and the Salvos Connect service from rooms attached to the foyer, when Corps Officer, Major Janet Siddens, started to pray for a Doorways caseworker. [Doorways is a Salvation Army program which provides emergency relief and financial counselling, with its main objective to end long-term, generational welfare dependency in its clients.]  

“It was a Wednesday that I talked to Paul [Kinder, fellow Corps Officer] and on the Friday this guy from Salvos Connect rang up and said, ‘I just want to know, I’ve got a two-days-a-week caseworker, fully funded, would you like him at Rockdale?’”

You can imagine her response.

It was around the same time that God had prompted Major Romona to install the shower and laundry. The same thing happened when the team was discussing the need for a professional counsellor. That very afternoon a man who attends Rockdale Corps had a meeting with Major Paul and offered to provide counselling services for free one day a week.

“God has just provided us so much. It’s unbelievable!” says Major Janet.

About a month ago, Major Romona was collecting at the local shopping centre when a man walked up to her and said, “What can I give you?”, then walked away. Puzzled, she didn’t think much of it. Then the man walked back and said, “No really, what can I give you?” and proceeded to explain that he was a local developer and that he wanted to employ some locals who were doing it tough. On the very day that he and his business partner visited Rockdale Salvation Army to discuss the offer in more detail, an out-of-work brickie’s labourer, who was then homeless, came in to do his washing and have a shower.

“So then the guy talked to the homeless man and they offered him a job and they are willing to help him find somewhere to live, they are willing to put him through a couple of training courses that will give him the right certificates and he looks like being employed for a while at least,” says Romona. “He’s really excited!”

“He’s gone from sleeping under a tree to full employment,” adds Janet.

Meanwhile, Asfaw Tedela, the two-day-a-week Rockdale Doorways caseworker, is helping John to secure public housing. He’s hoping he won’t have to endure winter in his car.

The Rockdale Salvation Army Foyer Ministry keeps growing and evolving as God opens up new doors for connecting with the community. Last weekend, a group of men who are experiencing homelessness and regularly use the foyer facilities volunteered to collect for the Red Shield Appeal, as a way of “giving back”.

“We wanted our corps to be a place of refuge, comfort and healing,” says Janet. “And the foyer really is that. It’s offering unconditional love and support to whoever walks through the door.

“God just keeps providing. We just stand back and say, ‘OK God, what’s next?’”





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