Salvos St Kilda - building a healthy and inclusive community for all
19 January 2022
It sounds obvious, but building rapport really is the first step that you need to work on when someone walks through the doors. If you try to make that a positive experience, then that’s going to give them the best shot in coming back. (Salvation Army social worker, Jasmine Stubbs)
Located on Boon Wurrung/Bunurong Country, the vibrant inner-Melbourne suburb of St Kilda attracts visitors from all around the country and the world, for its iconic beach, cafes, local attractions and entertainment venues. It is also home to the Victorian Pride Centre – the first purpose-built centre for Australia's LGBTQIA+ community.
But behind the colourful façade of this seaside suburb, there has always been another face to St Kilda – one that involves financial hardship, community isolation, homelessness and struggle with addiction.
Working on the frontline, The Salvation Army has been part of the St Kilda community since 1889. In 1979, a Salvation Army crisis centre was established in Grey Street, St Kilda, offering emergency accommodation and care. Today, more than 40 years on, the centre offers a range of essential services, providing wrap-around support for individuals who come for help, with the understanding that positive individual outcomes, also flow through to the wider community.
These services, designed to provide a practical response to the needs in the community include ‘The Well’ at St Kilda Chapel, which offers a peaceful sanctuary and a safe place to connect and reflect. The ‘Crisis Contact Centre’ assists and advocates for people in immediate crisis by providing emergency accommodation assistance, family violence risk assessment, safety planning, crisis accommodation and referral to family violence services and more.
The Salvation Army’s ‘Access Health Program’ delivers Comprehensive Primary Health Care for people who are marginalised, injecting drugs, street sex working and/or experiencing homelessness. Offering multi-layered healthcare every weekday, with doctors, nurses, social workers, and alongside a variety of partner organisations, Access Health works to provide essential health and support services, in a safe and inclusive environment for every person who comes through the doors.
A positive connection
Based at the Access Health front desk, Salvation Army AOD social worker Jasmine Stubbs supports clients as they walk through the door. Working with clients with complex needs, performing risk assessments and triaging, case managing, and more, she understands the critical importance of a warm welcome and safe surrounds.
This, she says, is important not only as it is best practice, but as it is also at the heart of The Salvation Army’s mission. It is vital for any person who is isolated and marginalised – and who has taken a courageous first step of reaching out for help – to feel accepted and safe to ensure ongoing engagement with the essential health care on offer.
“It’s really important to have a positive interaction [from the very beginning] because that stays with a person … It’s really important ... because if that person is then disconnected from that service … for us it could mean they might disconnect from their healthcare.”
Jasmine says that for every person that comes into the service, the team offers ‘wrap-around’ care.
“It's important to have the multi-layered approach, especially from Access Health. Coming from a health care point of view, it’s important that we have continuous conversations with the staff and the GPs about how to approach the community and how to be the most supportive to their needs."
In 2018, having served and journeyed with many who identify as part of the LGBTIQA+ community, The Salvation Army in St Kilda worked to gain Rainbow Tick accreditation. The Rainbow Tick is a quality framework that helps health and human services organisations become safe, inclusive and affirming services and employers for the LGBTQIA+ community.*
Jasmine says the framework and training has been fully embraced by staff and has provided wonderful opportunities for open conversations around community member and staff inclusion and service development. As well as this extensive training and continual service improvement, all gender bathrooms, flags, posters, lanyards, and pronoun badges provide immediate and clear visual cues to assure the community they have entered a safe and inclusive space.
"I would hope that through [even small touches such as] the pronoun badges, that it does provide a sense of safety in opening up about their pronouns and feeling comfortable", says Jasmine. “I think also it’s really great to have something like a badge or a poster that’s initially a non-verbal cue and hopefully promotes a conversation later down the line.”
Commitment to community healing
While The Salvation Army locally in St Kilda, and nationally throughout Australia, actively works to break down barriers to create a non-judgemental environment, there is still a widely held belief that organisations like The Salvation Army may discriminate against those from the LGBTIQA+ community.
This is why the Rainbow Tick accreditation is so important – embracing a framework that serves to break down all barriers that may prevent those in crisis from walking through the door, or picking up the phone.
“I think it is really important to acknowledge that history as to why we have to work even harder to be proud of the [Rainbow Tick] accreditation,” says Jasmine “Having it be a welcoming and accessible organisation is important to hold up those values. And it is really important to have those conversations with clients as well, to make sure that they feel included in the space, and safe.”
These actions go beyond the walls of the building in which they work, with Salvation Army members taking part in the Pride March each year, publicly acknowledging and reaffirming that commitment to inclusivity and to the wider community as a whole. “For all the residents that live in St Kilda, that is their home, so it’s important for them to feel connected to the services within St Kilda. We just want that reflected through the organisation,” says Jasmine.
She says Salvos staff, management and volunteers see positive outcomes daily. Connecting and building rapport, showing deep respect and understanding, has built a level of trust and care within the community that actively transforms and often also saves lives.
“We have lots of different partnerships, lots of different services on each day which I think makes Access Health so unique because we are a service that can provide so much to people walking through the doors,” says Jasmine.
“We’re with clients building rapport, they feel comfortable at Access Health. We’ve found great success in creating pathways to potentially the sexual health nurse or the AOD workers because they already trust the service as a whole, so they then in turn trust that service delivery coming from us.”
*Embracing the Rainbow Tick framework in St Kilda has proven an extremely effective means to even more fully engage the local community and ensure no perceived barriers between The Salvation Army and any person in need. The Salvation Army, Australia is developing a national Diversity and Inclusion framework, which will help us achieve Rainbow Tick accreditation for all our Social Mission services in Victoria. The Salvation Army is committed to ensuring that all who may be experiencing hardship feel safe, welcomed and comfortable when accessing essential Salvos’ programs and services.