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Providing care across cultures in rural Victoria

Providing care across cultures in rural Victoria

Providing care across cultures in rural Victoria

7 September 2020

SalvoCare Homelessness Services manager Omeni Ndlovu (left) with a representative of the Goulburn Valley African Australian Community, celebrate funding the production of information videos in multiple languages to raise awareness and education about the pandemic in Shepparton.

By Jessica Morris

Lockdown has many faces in Victoria, and in the state’s rural north the long-term effect of COVID-19 restrictions continues to take an economic toll on people.

In the midst of this pandemic, people are still experiencing homelessness or are without a secure place to ‘lock down’. Add in cultural and linguistic differences and the need for a bridge to help and hope has never been more necessary.

This is a challenge that Omeni Ndlovu takes on every day. As a program manager for SalvoCare Homelessness Services in the Hume Region, his team serves almost 500 clients every year from diverse backgrounds and communities.

Between the Adult Homelessness Program and the Community Connections Program, they tangibly help people experiencing homelessness, at risk of homelessness and or living in low-cost accommodation through case management and advocacy for wrap-around supports from other agencies.

“The numbers of people requiring support has increased for us, as is the case right across the state of Victoria. However, the number of clients we can support even at this time is based on staff availability and capacity,” Omeni said.

“The challenge we have is that lack of face-to-face contact impacts negatively in establishing rapport with difficult-to-engage clients, and we operate a closed-door service so clients cannot walk in as they used to. However, staff have adapted to case manage clients utilising phone calls due to social distancing requirements.”

“Economically, most of our clients are on Centrelink payments, so this has not changed much for them. Collaboration between programs within the Army is crucial in ensuring that client needs are responded to. Homelessness services continue to deliver food parcels to clients on behalf of the Doorways* program and strictly adhere to safety guidelines in the process.”

During this period, The Salvation Army Homelessness Services (Victoria) and The Goulburn Valley African Australian Community (GVAA) have worked together in the production of COVID-19 awareness videos in multiple languages, so that recently arrived members of the community who were born outside of Australia [often where English is not their first language] can understand the same message received by all.

The videos have been produced in English, Dinka, French and Swahili to continue to raise awareness and education about the pandemic and what community members must do to reduce chances of infection. “The use of other languages [mother tongue] is to ensure the message reaches a larger target audience,” Omeni said.

Life in rural Victoria holds unique challenges during lockdown. But the integration between the Salvos mission and community services in Shepparton remains a beacon of hope through all this.

Captain Karyn Wishart, Corps Officer at Shepparton, says this integrated approach is reflective of Christ’s parable in Matthew 25:40: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

“We can make sure that ‘the one life at a time’ can be influenced ‘with the love of Jesus’ through the various ways we help people to win in life,” said Karyn.

“We do this through helping them understand (cross-cultural ministry), helping them to be clothed (Thrift Shop ministry), helping them to be fed (Doorways and community meals ministry), helping them to find ‘home’ literally and spiritually (homelessness and corps ministry), and helping them when they were unwell or in prison (chaplaincy ministry).

“For whatever we do, for any of our fellow brothers or sisters, we do it for Jesus also. That’s the heartbeat of mission and ministry.”

Life in rural Victoria holds unique challenges during lockdown. But the integration between the Salvos mission and community services in Shepparton remains a beacon of hope.

* Doorways is an innovative, best-practice model to run and manage Salvation Army emergency relief and financial counselling services.

 

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