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Foundation of Salvation Army social services

James Barker led the way to establish the first Salvation Army social institution anywhere in the world on a permanent basis.

In 1883, Barker leased a small house in Lygon Street, Carlton (Vic) to provide accommodation for prisoners discharged from Melbourne's gaols. This led to the formation of the Prison-Gate Brigade, the members of which met discharged prisoners upon their release and offered them a home and the prospect of a job.

Among those who welcomed James and Alice Barker to Melbourne was the 74 year old Christian philanthropist, Dr John Singleton, founder of a number of Christian agencies offering help to the poor and destitute. Singleton was impressed by The Salvation Army and placed his Little Bourke Street Mission Hall at their disposal.

In March 1883, Singleton arranged for James Barker to accompany him to the Melbourne Gaol to visit incarcerated prisoners. Soon Barker and other Salvation Army Officers were holding religious meeting inside the gaol and conducting private interviews with prisoners. A list of prisoners to be discharged was sent to The Salvation Army each month. The Prison-Gate Brigade quickly outgrew its original premises and on December 8, 1883, moved to larger rented premises in Argyle Place, South Carlton.

Similar work for women commenced in early 1884, with the opening of a Fallen Sister's Home in Carlton (also called a Rescued Sister's Home). It catered for discharged female prisoners, prostitutes and drug addicts frequenting the opium dens of the Little Bourke Street area. In its first 12 months this women's refuge had received 300 women who were in desperate need of assistance.

Official recognition came in 1886 when the Government of Victoria gave The Salvation Army £500 towards its rescue work. In January 1888 the Government granted James Barker the authority to apprehend without warrant any child under the age of 16 years found residing in a brothel. Barker attacked the brothels and opium dens from the pulpit and the press, and by 1889 sixty-four such places had been suppressed.

The Salvation Army continued to expand its social work with the opening of a small lock hospital in Gore Street, Fitzroy, for cases of "special" (venereal) disease. Prison-Gate Brigade Homes and Fallen Sisters Homes were established throughout the Australian Colonies. A report published in 1887 stated:

"The Melbourne Prison-Gate Brigade Home since its establishment 4 years ago, had received 3,982 men, and had supplied 82,284 meals and 27, beds; while since its establishment in August 1885, the Ballarat Prison-Gate Home had received 227 men, had supplied 27,677 meals and 7,244 beds.

"The Rescued Sister's Homes, established in February 1884, had received some 2000 women, of whom upwards of 100 had been restored to their friends, 25 had been married, and 8 had returned to their husbands."

The Social Wing of The Salvation Army also addressed other areas of deprivation, such as unemployment, homeless children, aged care for men and women, alcohol and drug addiction, single mothers, child abuse, and family violence.

In 1889 The Salvation Army opened a Labour Bureau at 53 Latrobe Street, Melbourne. This was Australia's first free employment service. It later moved to 271 Exhibition Street, before being taken over by the Victorian Government. In 1897 the Labour Bureau recorded 81,831 men were registered as unemployed, and work was found for 69,119 of them.

The Salvation Army magazine War Cry published the following list of social institutions as of 4 June 1898:

Women's social work

Men's social work

Industrial Homes:
Beulah, Pakenham, VIC.
The Rest, Heidelberg, VIC.

Rescue Homes:
The Harbour, Melbourne, VIC.
The Anchor, Geelong, VIC.
The Bridge, Adelaide, SA.
The Defence, Sydney, NSW.
Ebenezer, Bathurst, NSW.
The Lighthouse, Newcastle, NSW.
Liberty Lodge, Brisbane, QLD.
The Deliverer, Launceston, TAS.
The Delight, Hobart, TAS.
Canaan, Riverview, QLD.
The Golden Gate, Perth, WA.

Maternity Homes:
The Haven, Melbourne, VIC.
The Ark, Adelaide, SA.
The Retreat, Sydney, NSW.
The Life Guard, Brisbane, QLD.

Shelter & Slum Posts:
Hope Hall, Melbourne, VIC
The Refuge, Sydney, NSW.

Prison-Gate Brigade Homes:
Fort Conquest, Melbourne, VIC.
Fort Rescue, Ballarat, VIC.
Fort Secure, Adelaide, SA.
Fort Industry, Adelaide, SA.
Fort Valour, Sydney, NSW.
Fort Victory, Brisbane, QLD.
Fort Perseverance, Brisbane, QLD

Shelters & Labour Yards:
Workmen's Metropole, Melbourne, VIC.
Workmen's Hotel, Sydney, NSW

Industrial Colonies:
The Eden, Bayswater, VIC.
The Rest, Heidelberg, VIC.
Beulah, Pakenham, VIC.
Lebanon, Wimbldon, NSW.
Industrial Farm, QLD.

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