Doorways – Working to halt the poverty spiral
Salvation Army Doorways (emergency relief) caseworker Hop understands all too well that anyone’s circumstances can change in the blink of an eye. It is an understanding, he says, that gives him extra passion in his work.
This Anti-Poverty Week (16-22 October 2022), Hop shares the importance of reaching out for help, to find hope in tough times.
Over 30 years ago, Hop was picked for the Australian national badminton squad. He had also been offered sponsorship deals and was headed for a professional sporting career.
Then, his life changed forever.
I was hit by a drunk driver,” he explains. “I had a motorcycle accident and after coming out of the coma, was told I was an amputee among many other injuries.
“The physical side wasn't as bad as emotional. It took around 18 months to recover physically [but] I didn't deal with anything emotionally for many years.”
With no counselling or support offered, Hop soon escaped into substance abuse.
Salvation Army recovery support beginning of stable journey
After the accident, Hop finished a double apprenticeship as a furniture maker/upholsterer and cabinetmaker. Over the years, he bought a home, married and had five children.
Hop says, “[Sadly] drinking and drugging and risky behaviour became my way of dealing with emotions for many, many years.”
His marriage inevitably broke up and eventually Hop entered The Salvation Army’s residential recovery service in Brisbane, also known as ‘Moonyah’.
“If I hadn’t got clean and sober, I’d be dead. No two ways about that with the lifestyle I was living,” he says.
It was during his time at Moonyah, that Hop first started studying counselling at TAFE. After graduating from the service, he went on to work for The Salvation Army.
Hop later graduated from university and undertook a range of additional courses, while raising his five children as a single parent. He then went on to a range of roles with not-for-profit and other organisations including counselling and support roles for the Queensland Drug and Alcohol Court and youth services.
Then, last year, Hop returned to a role with The Salvation Army – this time as Doorways caseworker.
Doorways to hope in economic hardship
In Australia, The Salvation Army financial relief services are run according to the Doorways philosophy.
Doorways was developed as a program response in the late 2000s in recognition that provision of emergency relief alone does not address the underlying causes of poverty.
Through Doorways, The Salvation Army works to support people to move from welfare dependency, social isolation and disengagement to a stronger position financially, socially and, by flow-on, emotionally.
As part of the role, Hop also runs The Salvation Army’s Positive Lifestyle Program (PLP), looking at topics including grief, self-esteem, anger, depression and future directions.
Hop says: “Each day is very different. I work on applications for pensions, NDIS, education, community engagement and life coaching.
“Referrals can come from anywhere and everywhere, including our local Salvos’ Connect (emergency relief), through Moneycare (free financial counselling service), local community agencies and organisations, probation and parole and more.”
Essential support to beat poverty cycle
Hop says essentially his Doorways role is “to help stop the cycle from continuing on”.
“If someone has a continual cycle of seeking financial support, we look at what’s behind that,” he says.
“They might need help with time management, others will mention they are going to court because of drugs or alcohol, so we look at assistance to abstain from that or work on harm minimisation and refer that way.
“My advice to those who really want to make changes but are afraid to reach out is face that fear, you may find you have more courage than you thought you had,” he says.
“If I hadn’t spoken up and asked for help, I would have been homeless, I would have been in poverty, and probably would have died many years ago.”
“Hopefully I can help people identify some of that courage in themselves to get help and face and work on those things that are pulling them down,” Hop says.
“One of my community members I am journeying with recently said, ‘Don’t make long-term decisions based on short-term anger’. It made so much sense I laminated it and share it around.”
Hop relishes his role as a chance to give back to others after being shown great kindness and support in his most vulnerable times.
He says: “I believe the journey of my life was meant to be the way it was, so when I did get stable and clean and sober and started to listen and learn, I could then help others to find strength and courage and hope.”