Giving hope: Salvos roll out help across the Bellarine
WHEN the Bellarine Salvos pulled up to a residence in Portarlington last week, neighbours isolating across the road stood at their doors and cheered; their elderly Italian friend was finally getting help.
As she opened the door, Salvation Army Officer Peter Hobbs said the woman began to cry and as he gave her toilets rolls, bread and various essentials, he gave her something far more priceless – he gave her hope.
“We’ve been visiting between 20 to 25 families every day, to make sure everyone is safe, connected and assured that everything is going to be alright,” Mr Hobbs said.
“We’ve got this big network of people we’re trying to keep in contact with, we have mobile numbers so we can message them directly if it gets to the point that we can’t get out.”
The Salvos have been classed as an essential service, and to minimise the risk to the community and his team, Mr Hobbs said there are now only three members working the van.
“The outreach van has been running for six years now. It came about because we started seeing homeless people living in their cars nearby in Clifton Springs.
“We started going on an expedition every Friday night to see if we could find people to form connections with, we would stay in contact and provide ongoing support.”
Mr Hobbs said the safe constant connection and support they provide has helped people out of homelessness, and they’re currently offering the same level of support to vulnerable people in the community during this pandemic.
“We’re covering the entirety of the Bellarine from Drysdale, Clifton springs, Portarlington, St Leonards, Queenscliff, Pt Lonsdale to Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads,” he said.
“We have so many names now we’ve had to spread them out. We partnered with Woolworths and went to their vulnerable hour last week and asked people if they knew people that needed help.
“A lot of the elderly there were with family, so we wanted to know about their friends, the people who don’t have that support network.”
Mr Hobbs said the Portarlington resident was so overwhelmed at first, and then felt a great sense of relief that she’d not been forgotten, like most house calls.
“They’re scared and surprised that someone has come to them. They’re so lonely and after the initial shock, when they realise we are there to listen, you see them relax and by the end of the conversation, they’re usually crying with relief.
“The food we deliver is far secondary to the fact we are there to listen. We don’t go into their homes; we speak to them from their porch at a distance. We randomly turn up and they’re like ‘Wow, how did you know?’.”
Mr Hobbs said while he encourages everyone to check on their neighbours and provide support where possible, he wanted to make sure the community’s most vulnerable stay safe.
“While there is so much fear in the community, there’s also a lot of cheer. People are doing wonderful things for one another; they’re checking in on their neighbours.
“So many services are getting shut down so we’re more important than ever. There’s Facebook groups popping up wanting the contact details of vulnerable people, so I just encourage people to stay safe.”
Mr Hobbs said the council and government could not fund the amount of care required to get through this crisis.
“It’s going to come down to everyone looking after one another locally. Caring for their own streets and neighbours, talking to people when they can, at a distance.
“You don’t have to go with anything, you just need to listen. Keep your distance but go and be. The act of listening and caring empowers that person, you might be exactly what they needed to get up and help themselves.”
If you would like to help, search “Bellarine Salvo Outreach Van” on Facebook and send a message. They will respond with the items they are in need of.