Refuge centre reopens

By Charlotte Wooldridge | posted on June 25, 2020

FOOD, warmth and a safe place to stay is becoming available again, with Albany’s crisis accommodation for men reopening its doors, providing refuge for homeless males in the Albany region during winter.

This marks the seventh year of Shalom House’s operations, run by a committee of volunteers who will be reopening the haven for overnight stays from June 29, a month later than they normally do each year.

Shalom House Coordinator Gerry van der Wal said COVID-19 impacted their ability to aid men in need, despite calls for the service.

“There’s been quite a demand for it already, so I think we’ll be functioning pretty much straight away again,” he said.

“We do have to be a bit more careful now however, and we’re going to have to watch our numbers as the committee have restricted me to three clients, when we can normally have seven stay at a time.”

However, things are looking up for Shalom House, with an anonymous philanthropist in Perth offering to help fund improvements to the building.

“We’ve had someone from Perth who felt committed to helping the homeless, and she’s prepared to contribute a substantial amount of money for us to extend,” Mr van der Wal said.

“We’re going to replace some of the rooms inside and make them larger.”

Mr van der Wal said they were looking into adding an extension to the building to allow for more rooms to make sure they can help get as many men off the streets as possible.

“In the winter it gets bitterly cold,” he said.

“We have had one or two guys as well that we’ve helped out who have slept in their cars, and that’s certainly not ideal, it’s not always safe.

“Some of them have experienced having their door forced open while they’re trying to sleep.”

Mr van der Wal said their ability to support local men wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of the community.

“The community are really supportive and I’m absolutely gobsmacked by the support I receive every year with food, clothing, money donations … it’s been really great,” he said.

“I have quite a few ladies who cook frozen meals for us, and I just need to give them the word and they’ll be ready and slinging meals for us.”

Mr van der Wal also wanted to give thanks to local businesses who backed the organisation.

“Coles Orana and Jesters Pies have gone out of their way to help me out with all sorts of food donations on a regular basis,” he said.

Shalom House are now asking for any keen people with green fingers to come by and help establish their community garden to grow vegetables for clients, disadvantaged families, individuals and volunteers.

The crisis accommodation for homeless men over the age of 18 will be available until the beginning of October, but remain open all year on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between the hours of 10am and 2pm as a drop-in centre.

If you can offer any assistance, call Mr van der Wal on 0474 474 902.