“I’m proud to be alive; I’ve survived because Sacred Heart Mission hasn’t given up on me,” Steven says.
After spending much of his adult life sleeping rough in St Kilda and accessing various Sacred Heart Mission services, Steven is one of the new residents living at our new building on 101 Grey Street.
The new resident bedrooms are spread across four floors. Each level includes common areas with an open lounge, dining area and kitchen – built facing Grey Street to allow residents to enjoy a lovely view of St Kilda.
Steven enjoys wandering around his new home and watching the hive of activity outside which makes him feel connected with the community; a community he feels a strong sense of support from and which he belongs.
“I love my new home; I have friends here and I love the views of the beach and the fresh air outside,” Steven says.
“The Mission has given me a place to live.”
The first group of residents moved into the new building in February 2019, which marked the first major milestone of many as we progress with Project 101. The new Sacred Heart Community, when fully completed in early 2020, will bring together high-quality services and accommodation for 97 residents under one roof.
Sacred Heart Community supports people as they age within their local community, provides accommodation, health and support services to people who have experienced chronic disadvantage and homelessness.
This includes a combination of expert professional support, trauma-informed practices, emotional and pastoral care within a stable, supportive environment.
“In my previous accommodation I had no friends, I felt isolated,” Steven says.
“Now I have friends, a community – and I still have my own space for when I want alone time.”
Steven says his life has been challenging from the very beginning. Born into a psychiatric unit where both his parents were patients, he spent his early life in foster care and in and out of the tertiary service system.
As soon as Steven turned 18 in the early 1980s, he left the children’s home he was staying at and lived on St Kilda’s streets.
Without a support network and living with undiagnosed mental health issues, Steven continued to sleep rough for eight years.
While this was a traumatic period for Steven, he said he looks back at this time fondly because it was a time when he regularly attended Sacred Heart Mission’s Dining Hall for meals and chats with our founders and pioneering volunteers. Steven enjoyed building a friendship with Lola Barns who was one of Sacred Heart Mission’s earliest long-term volunteers.
Reflecting on these experiences which he refers to as the ‘good old days’, Steven believes Sacred Heart Mission’s welcoming environment and unconditional support is what has kept him alive.
“He is a valued member of our family,” Sacred Heart Community Manager, Margaret Thorpe says.
Support at Sacred Heart Community differs from many aged care services, mainly because we support people from a younger age. Almost 40 per cent of residents are under 64 years of age, such as Steven, and almost 75 per cent are under 74 on admission.
Many residents have lost contact with family and friends and it is therefore essential a relationship is fostered between residents and the team of staff, to ensure the residents are supported and engaged, and find their place within their new home.
Steven’s sense of belonging has been enhanced through the lifestyle program at Sacred Heart Community, which encourages residents to maintain their independence through activities such as having a coffee at nearby cafes, taking walks, excursions and bus outings.
Steven says he still visits the Dining Hall on occasion for lunch and hopes to make more friends – even possibly find a romantic partner soon.
And for the first time, he is looking forward to the future.
“I belong here,” he says with a smile.
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