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20th Century overview of The Salvation Army

In the year 1900, The Salvation Army in Australasia could boast the following statistics:

  • Officers & Cadets & Employees: 1929

  • Soldiers (Members) estimated at 50,000

  • Corps (Churches): 512

  • Outposts: 858

  • Training Homes: 2

  • Womens Industrial Homes: 4

  • Rescue Homes: 16

  • Maternity Homes: 7

  • Slum Posts & Women's Shelters: 5

  • Prison-Gate Brigade Homes: 7

  • Mens Shelters & Labour Yards: 6

  • Mens Industrial Homes & Farms: 7

  • League of Mercy: 4

  • Military Home: 1

In 1903, at the height of its membership (or "soldiers' roll"), The Salvation Army made claim to 0.082 per cent of Australia's population. That percentage has not been met since, and the Army has seen itself, along with the other churches, as the "leaven in the dough"- a small group with a surprisingly widespread influence for positive addressing of people's needs.

The economic depressions of the 1890s and 1930s brought the role of the churches into sharp relief against the background of dire need. The Army, through its social work, acquired a reputation as being characteristic of "Christianity with its sleeves rolled up". The Army, along with the other Christian churches, makes that commitment because of Christ's example.

In affluent Australia in 1998, some 21,000 young people were homeless. They are part of the total figure of homeless individuals: 104,506 people. That figure, daunting as it is for Australians, is dwarfed by the number of people who sought assistance from the nation's combined homelessness services. The Salvation Army has an annual operating budget of $25 million to provide shelter and services to the homeless. That budget comprises Commonwealth and State funding.

Perhaps due to the denomination's hotel ministry and Salvationists' stance of total abstinence, the Army's work with substance abusers such as alcoholics is well-known in the community. Salvationists and social workers employed by the Army - in detoxification programs, group therapy, employment and skills training - work unceasingly with people in dire need.

The following description, from a Salvationist writer, the late Major Barbara Bolton, accurately sums up the Salvationist stance to substance abuse and addiction: "The Salvation Army sees alcoholism and drug addiction as one of the most serious problems of a society that surrounds people with the allure of stimulants - and rejects those that get caught in over-use. It sees a friendly, faith-filled environment as essential for those who are making the slow, difficult climb back to sobriety."

Next: Timeline 1829 to 1999