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Gunnedah house of hope

19 August 2011

Gunnedah house of hope

Jesus would be here walking amongst the broken, the hungry and the abused, and the house given to us seemed to represent the need.

“Ninety per cent of windows in the house were smashed, there were holes in the walls, the carpet was filthy and stained, and arsonists had failed in their attempts to burn the place down.” – Envoy Joy Wilson, Gunnedah, NSW

During one of The Salvation Army’s monthly barbeques, initiated by Envoy Joy Wilson, attracting more than 50 people in a high-need area of Gunnedah, a suggestion was made to ask the local community housing provider if it were possible to lease a house in the area, as a permanent Salvation Army base.

Hoping to provide a positive presence in the neighbourhood by offering a variety of services and programs, Joy approached Homes North to see if they would consider the proposal, and the housing provider agreed.

There was one house available in the area which had been significantly damaged, but Homes North offered the property to the Salvos at just over one dollar a year rent, and so they seized the opportunity and started up Hope House.

Joy Wilson, now Salvation Army Hope House co-ordinator, explains the deep needs in a small neighbourhood ‘well known’ to police as a challenging area of the rural town of Gunnedah.

She says: “We didn’t start in the most respectful and affluent neighbourhood, but in an area of high crime and low income.

“We felt we needed to be among this community of broken people.”

The Hope House refurbishment was finally completed in September this year, with additional funding made possible through a generous bequest also contributing to the daily operational costs. A number of service clubs, churches and individuals also generously supported the project.

Local teenager Kye, who is the current Australian welterweight boxing champion, was commissioned to paint a special mural on the Hope House fence, which he spent his last day in Gunnedah completing before moving to Sydney for training.

Kye and his family first met Joy, and a small Salvos team, at the monthly barbecues, and Joy has supported his mother for a number of years.

Joy says: “Kye was brought up in a very difficult environment and was in foster care with his siblings for a time.

“He had fought tooth and nail to become a champion!”

To date, Kye has won four national Golden Gloves, three Australian boxing titles and eight state titles.

In May, he represented Australia at the Arafura Games in Darwin, then competed in New Caledonia, and is on his way to fulfilling his dream of one day competing in the Olympic Games, last month winning the NSW Olympic Trials.

Joy, who is also working with the courts and local schools, says that she is not there to lecture, but just to be a friend, and offer services to help those who are struggling.

Sometimes the depth of need can seem overwhelming, she says, but she does what she can and hands the rest to God. She says seeing the success in Kye’s life, and a number of others, is very encouraging.

“We want to see a whole heap more beat the odds just like Kye,” she says.

The Salvation Army acknowledges the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures; and to elders both past and present.

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