Carrington Cottages is a softly aged brick and stone nineteenth century building in the Adelaide City. It proudly wears its heritage listing with a recent renovation that has claimed newfound grandeur in line with many of the old buildings so prevalent in the area. Behind its doors it is a place to call home for around 60 men all over the age of 45 that are transitioning from being homeless to independent living. These men have come from all walks of life and backgrounds. From Managers and ex-military to tradespeople and new immigrants. The one thing they share in common is that at some stage in their lives they have endured homelessness and the issues that can lead to homelessness. Physically and emotionally buffeted by the loss of work, of partners, of families, of friends and of self esteem. In many ways this group of men have been left out in the cold regarding targeted support and Carrington has given them a means to get by and so start to reconnect with work, friends, their families and in many cases themselves.
It was in 1989 that the now legendary tough-minded nun Sr Betty Schonfeldt was appointed administrator of Carrington. It was her birthday the day she was handed the keys to run Carrington Cottages and immediately walked into the courtyard to break up a brawl between two large men. The sight of this petite nun walking fearlessly into the turmoil immediately set the new tone for what has become a place where hundreds of men’s lives have been turned around. Sr Betty has handed on the keys to new management but still regularly visits and keeps in close contact with a range of social activities for the tenants.
Shaunee Fox is a relatively new appointment to the position of General Manager of Carrington and her team of Alex Hark and Steve are ex-residents who show great desire and energy to keep the good will of hope within the walls, helping the residents manage and keep some order. The fact that they understand and have “been there” goes a long way in acceptance and being that important listening ear for when someone is able to talk more openly about their issues, in their own way and at their own pace.
With the renovation Carrington Cottages now starts its fourth decade of helping homeless men with the same commitment to repairing these men’s lives by organising social activities, transport to medical and welfare appointments and professional services when needed. After closing some of the rooms for the refit they are now reopen and operating to capacity.
Carrington is a not for profit association that provides boarding house accommodation for men 45+. It has 60 rooms with tenants sharing kitchens, bathrooms and backyard recreational areas. Oz Harvest supplies fresh fruit and veggies as well as some groceries so there is good food available if needed for free.
Ex-resident Steve is now one of the staff. He’s ex-military and you can see it in his manner and booming vocal cords. He openly talks of how in a relatively short period of time he lost his job, his wife and his house and found himself on the streets living rough. At one stage living in a cardboard box in Port Adelaide. Quite the showman Steve recently started playing his guitar out the back one Friday afternoon and was surprised by how many of the residents came down to sing along. This has now grown into a regular event and being a self-confessed people watcher I spent a few good hours with the audience of around 30 residents and their friends. Looking around you can see the tell tale signs of men in various states of repair. Quite a few visiting ex-residents who had reconnected with work and families, some even studying at University, had reinvigorated life in their eyes. As the evening progressed even the quiet newbies finding something that sparked a flourish of response or a vocal chorus outburst or two.
The surprising thing to me was the willingness for some of these men to talk about their issues amongst the group. The further along the journey of repair the more confidently they speak about their past to one another. Most talk of the impact that homelessness has had in tearing down what they projected as themselves to the world. When you go from that perception to a cardboard box dignity can be a fragile word.
As Steve says, “…without a place to live you can’t connect with the world. The system requires you to have a home. Carrington Cottages enabled me to reconnect with the world so I don’t feel that loss of pride anymore”.
Alex Hark a long time volunteer and ex-resident of Carrington related that it’s not just living rough these days. It has become very dangerous out there with the threat of being bashed or robbed or both. More work needs to be done to provide those people living rough a safe place to live such as Carrington Cottages.
Thanks to Shaunee, Steve and Alex
New research from The Salvation Army has revealed the proportion of people over the age of 55 accessing The Salvation Army Moneycare financial counselling and capability services has increased by 37 per cent over the last 10 years.
Moneycare is one of the largest providers of financial counselling and related services in Australia. In the 2017-18 financial year, Moneycare supported more than 8500 new clients, an increase of 18 per cent on the previous financial year.
The research, an internal analysis of people accessing The Salvation Army Moneycare services over the last 10 years, also found the proportion of private renters over 55 has increased by 55.5 per cent (from 27 per cent in 2008/09 to 42 per cent in 2017/18). Credit card debt has also increased among this group. This marks a significant increase in the number of people who may enter retirement in debt and without the extra security of owning a home.
Tony Devlin, the head of Moneycare, says both state and federal governments must adopt “an affordable housing strategy, including a focus on older Australians to minimise the risk of homelessness, and promote a sustainable and affordable retirement system.”
The research also found:
- The proportion of participants with pay-day loans has more than doubled, and the size of their debts to pay-day lenders has tripled in real value compared to 10 years ago.
- The most common form of debt is credit card debt (49 per cent) followed by personal loans (30 per cent) and electricity debt (25 per cent). The real value of credit card debt has increased by 38 per cent over a 10-year period.
- 39 per cent of participants presented with non-financial issues that led them to financial hardship, with the top three most reported issues being health (15 per cent), employment (15 per cent), situational (5 per cent; situational issues include natural disaster, loss of family member, immigration problems) and addiction (5 per cent).
- When adjusted for inflation, participants’ disposable income has not increased over the past 10 years. In 2017-18, participants’ median disposable income was $576, which is below the Australian poverty line, while unavoidable costs such as housing and utilities have increased.
- People in severe debt has remained prevalent with 11 per cent of participants having debt more than six times their annual disposable income.
“Our services have been able to transform the lives of people who contact us, however, the demand is great,” Mr Devlin says.
“What will help thousands of financially vulnerable Australians get back on their feet is an increase in funding and access to financial counselling, financial capability services and microfinance for low-income earners and people in financial hardship, as well as an increase in the Newstart Allowance to meet a basic standard of living and increase job seekers’ likelihood to secure employment.”
The Salvation Army encourages anyone in need of assistance to contact its free and confidential Moneycare financial counselling service. For more information, please call 1800 007 007 (National Debt Hotline) or visit salvos.org.au/moneycare.
Keeping the kids occupied this school holidays without constantly shelling out dollar after dollar for entertainment can be difficult.
Matching the energy and momentum of kids during the holidays will either be joyous or quickly fall into torturous organisational mayhem with parents constantly juggling home and work to manage young children. For some families it can be an expensive entertainment quest they can well do without.
Some of the best places to find low cost activities for young kids during the holiday season are your local Public Library, Community Centre and Community Gardens. From Lego construction and fun craft activities to gaming and learning new tech. There are a host of school holiday programs to keep the kids minds engaged or at the very least amused.
Public libraries with their image of the thin-lipped librarian with strict code of quiet and diligence have transformed with the push to bring the libraries back to the public eye and use. Many sceptics predicted the library with its printed collection as going the same way as an aging postal service that fails to keep pace with technology or new enterprise. Some of the big libraries and centres have met this challenge by exploring how and what people want or use and giving them more of what they want. Most modern libraries have made the transition and you can find a wide range of people on the computer terminals researching, or after school kids just gaming amongst an around the clock host of activities. More importantly a library card comes with home access to professional online tutorials, ebooks, video and music downloads - all part of every library throughout the state. During the holidays they have an enormous range of activities for young minds.
The huge increase in Community Gardens has provided a great meeting place whilst providing entertainment for kids. In SA there were around 40 in 2012 and that number has grown to hundreds. These gardens have taken over as a modern day kids club where stay at home mums and dads can gather and collectively keep the kids occupied whilst having a grown up chat and literally watch the grass or veggies grow. Sometimes a collective of parents is just what you need to ease the constant guardianship of being a watchful modern super parent. Who knows the kids might even find a worm or two to eat and you can watch and debate if that’s OK or not.
Community Centres offer a wide range of activities for youth or slightly older children as well as adult education, physical fitness, community meals or well-being and self-development programs. Some of the larger centres in the North and South have such a myriad of clubs and activities associated and can even offer employment assistance and access to the wider service agencies that provide such things as emergency relief, financial counselling or cost of living assistance. These super centres have many activities each day over the holidays and whilst the kids are busy you can take part in something yourself.
So why not consider taking the kids down to the local community centre or library, or if the weather is good and you’re feeling like an afternoon in the garden check out what’s growing around your local area. Already the school activity programs are filling up fast and for the more popular events it’s worth jumping online straight away and booking. It could be a low cost way of not only engaging the kids or sparking an interest but expanding your own brain as well.
Many of us will go through financial problems at some stage in our lives. Some will waiver in and out of financial stress on a regular basis and most people are only one life-changing event away from hardship.
There are so many uncontrollable life events that can send us into financial hardship. South Australians in recent years have been subjected to a changing workplace environment with industries winding down or transitioning. The cost of utilities such as power and water has skyrocket to record heights.
The more personal scenarios we see are family breakdowns. Divorce and separation can be both emotionally and financial difficult. Domestic Violence. Problem gambling is still a huge burden in the community or a partner who leaves you with a hefty share of uncontrollable debt through credit cards and bad financial loans.
Our health too plays an important part in managing our lifestyle. Serious illness can strike anyone and the cost of care along with changing employment or income due to illness can quickly impact of your ability to maintain lifestyle and can send a financial shock wave through your life.
Not many of us are well prepared for life’s curve balls and seeking help can seem confusing or as confronting as the issue itself. Most service providers now understand that maintaining dignity and confidentiality can be just as important as providing the service, and the more people know and can self manage the more in control they can feel. More control means less stress and the sooner you seek help the less likely debt will accumulate.
The Affordable SA Program is at hand to support and empower you to make informed decisions and connect you easily and readily to valuable independent, confidential and free services in your area.
The Affordable SA Program can be accessed at www.affordablesa.com.au, www.facebook.com/affordableSAapp, or is free to download through Apple and Google search 'AffordableSA'.
Affordable SA also is supported through a Helpline service 9.30am to 8pm Monday to Thursday and 9.30am to 4.30pm Fridays its a free call 1800 036 539.