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Finding a home at Foley House

On 17 May, The Salvation Army officially opened Foley House* in Footscray (Vic.). Foley House provides 24-hour accommodation, case management and support for 46 residents**, all of whom have been homeless and all of whom are living with a disability, which include mental illnesses, intellectual disabilities, acquired brain injury, physical disabilities, substance abuse issues and/or complex needs.

The 1.3 million*** renovation to the facility sets the scene for The Salvation Army's provision of 24-hour home for men and women who were previously homeless, as well as case management and support to the residents, concerning life issues such as mental health, substance abuse and complex needs.

The residents were supported by Salvation Army staff, leaders, representatives of Victoria’s department of human services and the architects and builders who envisaged and prepared their new home.

Manager Andrew Pickard, a veteran social worker who has helped people through The Salvation Army and the Australian Defence Force, said the move from the Anchorage in Abbottsford to Foley House had been a good and overdue process.

Andrew added that ‘our residents are appreciative of the change in environment; this means so much for people’s dignity and privacy’.

He recalled that despite difficulties the Anchorage community ‘looked after one another in hard circumstances, with a high degree of tolerance and respect’ and added that he was pleased to report that ‘I’ve already seen examples of that sense of community here at Foley House. We’re seeing the evidence of that compassion – you cannot manufacture or fake “community spirit”.’

Territorial real estate and property development manager David Sinden said the property was originally constructed as an aged care facility and was to be sold before a bequest and funding allowed for the refurbishment and use of the property as a ‘recycled building’.

Melbourne Central Division adult services general manager Jane Barnes thanked Salvation Army divisional and territorial leadership for their support, and described representatives of the federal department of health and ageing and state government as ‘people with foresight and vision’. She then called on the state government to increase support and transitional funding.

‘This has been a dream for many of us,’ she explained. ‘Many people living here have experienced significant trauma and hardship over many years. Salvation Army leadership said to us that these people deserve what we can do for them – that’s one of the reasons why I love working for the Salvos.’

‘You are an amazing woman with a great heart,’ responded Commissioner Raymond Finger, who also thanked governments and builders etc. before saying ‘this place exists for one purpose and one purpose only; for the residents’.

‘The Salvation Army has a 93% approval rating because we exist to serve. We recognise the challenges and the difficulties that you face; you are people who need to be loved. If we are denied the opportunity to love and be loved then we are denied all things. The residents here are part of the family of The Salvation Army.’’   

Territorial leaders Commissioner Aylene and Raymond Finger invited staff members and residents to officially open the building.

The occasion was enhanced by the spirited performances of Foley House's choir, ‘Standing Room Only’.

* Foley House was named after Tom Foley, a former convict who was aided by the PrisonGate brigade ministry in the late 19th century – The Salvation Army’s first formal social work. A rough diamond who was aided by Salvation Army pioneer James Barker, became an officer but later relapsed and left the work, the use of Foley’s name is a tribute to the Army’s belief in forgiveness, grace and kindness.

** An extremely disadvantaged, marginalised and vulnerable group of Australians, the residents may have been rejected from mainstream service systems. They are likely to have spent significant time in prison, or other institutions, or as part of the broader criminal justice system.  

*** Funding sources included resident contributions, Salvation Army mission support funding, disability support, homelessness support, Commonwealth community aged care packages, and the department of health (drug and alcohol).