With the cold weather now here, we’re holding our third annual Heart For The Homeless appeal right throughout July. It’s estimated that over 9,000 West Australians experience homelessness every night, with 13% of these rough sleepers under 12 years old!

We’re committed to bringing help and dignity to these people. We know our 98five family is so generous and loves supporting those in need across our community, so we’re excited to be able to expand Heart For The Homeless even further this year. Along with our regular partners, St Pat’s in Fremantle and OneVoice, we’ve added a brand new partner Uniting WA to our appeal. They work in Perth CBD and the surrounding suburbs, so this partnership enables us to provide help to more people than ever before.

Michael Chester, Co-CEO of Uniting WA, joined Lockie this week to talk about their work.

He says the organization is the community services arm of the Uniting Church in WA. “We’re very diverse. We are a community housing organisation, we also support families and children, and we’re a significant disability service organization providing health support. We support people reintegrating into the community from prison, and of course we support people who are experiencing homelessness, which is often the consequence of some of those other areas.”

One of the major areas of support Uniting WA provides for those experiencing homelessness happens at the Tranby Engagement Hub, which operates seven days a week in Northbridge. “Those services consist of immediate crisis response. So every morning people can come in and have a shower, do their laundry, have a hot meal to start the day if they’ve been sleeping rough. Beyond that, we offer referrals to other services. So when people come in and say to us ‘today I’m ready for rehab’ we’re able to point them in the right direction with a bit of intensive support at that point in time. We’re fortunate to also have a number of housing programs that can help people in crisis as well as through transitional housing. That gives people an opportunity to re-learn how to live in shared housing environments, how to take care of their day-to-day needs, and how to focus on the future instead of the immediate.”

Michael says they’re determined to help people see that homelessness is not forever.

We have a lot of experience in supporting people experiencing different stages of homelessness. We like to call our services ‘transitioning from homelessness’ to present that sort of aspirational perspective that we want them to have. Homelessness might be a point in time for someone but we don’t want them to think of themselves as being eternally homeless.” You can find out more about Uniting WA at their website www.unitingwa.org.au.

During our Heart For The Homeless appeal last year you helped us collect more than 9,000 items, including sleeping bags, socks, and hygiene supplies. This year we’re hoping to break the 10,000 item barrier! You can find out how you can support our appeal here.

Have a listen to our conversation with Michael Chester, Co-CEO of Uniting WA, below: