Salvos, as they’re fondly known, have been supporting the Aussie community since 1880 in Australia. The Gold Coast centre of operations originally started twenty-five years ago in a different location, near the old hospital in Southport.
When they were offered the new spot by Queensland government five years ago, the Salvos jumped at the opportunity to transform an existing wellness centre that had been unoccupied for several years.
When you’ve been buzzed in through the security gate and driven down a winding road, you’ll discover fourteen houses, each made out of two containers. A total of 56 total residents - 40 men, 16 women – reside here as they bravely regain control of their lives.
Having recognised their lives have come off the tracks, participants who turn to Salvation Army want to detox and turn their lives around, often from a destructive dependency on drugs and alcohol.
Having been initially assessed at Turning Point in Southport, participants in the recovery program are driven up to the centre. The process works in three states; detox, the bridge program, then a transition into residential care if requested.
Major David Rogerson, Manager, Gold Coast Recovery Services tells ORM, “Alcohol is always a primary concern – close to 60 per cent of those who come here are struggling with alcohol addiction. Others struggle with drugs or gambling. Often we find poly use; alcohol and gambling is common. Mental health is extremely prominent and increasingly so due to the rising use of amphetamines.”
To demonstrate the difference between individual needs, Major Rogerson uses two examples to paint a very clear picture of how treatment is assessed and facilitated.
“Take a 50-year-old alcoholic,” he says. “They can have been drinking for 30 years straight. It would be common to see some mental health issues like depression and suicidal tendencies. It can take a long time for alcoholics to hit rock bottom and say, ‘I need help’.
“In contrast, let’s take the example of a 17-year-old boy who starts using amphetamines recreationally. Until that point he can have been going well in life but within twelve months he’ll be hooked.
“By the time he’s 23 or 24, he’s a mess. His brain will be burnt out and teeth will be rotten. If he started at 85/90 kgs, he’ll be down to 70 or less. It’s common for relationships with family to be damaged, possibly because of stealing, or often they may be totally alienated from relatives by this point. They could have been arrested two or three times.
“Within that time frame of just a handful of years, this person has gone from being a normal functioning young adult to a total wreck.
“An alcoholic can take 30 years to get to that point. By the time they do, psychological damage is extensive; they’ll probably be very jumpy and reactions become fight or flight.
“So, during our assessment phase we identify all these issues, as well as whether they’re on medication or have been injecting. If they’ve been unsafely injecting we need to look into hepatitis B or C.”
The detox process at Fairhaven is usually 7-10 days. There are eleven beds in the detox unit which have nursing staff on duty twenty four seven, seven days a week. This is intensive physical and psychological detox which demands a high level of care. Some participants then choose to go back to work, or an external rehab, or they move to their family if those relationships haven’t broken down.
“We manage and streamline the process so if participants want to finish detox and stay our residential, we can facilitate that,” says Major Rogerson. “We wouldn’t put people through detox and then have a gap before we move them into residential care because they’d be vulnerable to go back out into their everyday lives, and go backwards again. It needs to be continual care.”
A devoted team of support workers are on hand at Fairhaven to help and discuss what participants want to do next; they may be calling external rehabs, calling friends or relatives to initiate conversations.
“If participants want to stay on after detox, they start ‘Turning Point’; group meetings during the day with our qualified and certified social workers and psychologists. We also have volunteers who help clean bathrooms, answer phone calls - very much the practical side of support.
“We also help with Legal Aid. We’re up in the mountains here and these tranquil surroundings are fantastic for recovery - that far outweighs the hurdles that it also presents. However, it means we need to drive participants to legal aid meetings, or to the dentist.”
Amidst the serenity of the surroundings, Fairhaven is a busy hive of activity.
Local doctors and nurses come every day. Neighbours are actively involved in the centre.
“One neighbour comes and does a cross fit class every Monday,” says Major Rogerson. “She’s donated gym equipment. Her husband is an avocado farmer; some of our participants have secured work with him. They’re a really supportive couple who also come to chapel every Tuesday evening.”
Every May, the Salvation Army runs the Red Shield Appeal that helps with the short fall of costs from the funding Fairhaven receives from Queensland government.
This October will be Fairhaven’s 25th birthday and to celebrate they’ll be hosting a family open day. “We want people from the Gold Coast to come and look around. We want to welcome everyone and show them what we do here,” says Major Rogerson.
See you there!
Gold Coast based lawyer Tony Hickey has been working with the Salvation Army as Chairman of the Red Shield Appeal for South East Queensland for 16 years. He tells ORM:
“On many occasions I have been sitting in the wings listing to a heartfelt story and looking around a room of Gold Coast people with tears in their eyes”
“My role encompasses being responsible for the guidance, direction and overall control of the Red Shield Appeal on the Gold Coast. That includes a mail out by the Salvation Army asking for donations, a door knock appeal as well as a business breakfast launch.
I quickly realised that this was an opportunity for me to give back to the community. Although I had never been involved with the Salvation Army, their brand was well recognized and the work that they did was well understood in the community. My impression was this was a group of hard working Christians whose main priority was not to convert or preach rather to help those in need in the community.
Before I took over the breakfast that was held on the Gold Coast the maximum attendance was 80 people. At the first breakfast we had at the Crown Plaza in 2000 we had approximately 300 people attend and we raised approximately one hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
Since that first breakfast, the room has been sold out in advance every year with 350 people cramming in. Up until 2014, in good economic times and bad, we managed to average donations at the breakfast of approximately three hundred thousand dollars every year.
In 2015 we raised five hundred and fifty thousand dollars and in 2016 we set another world record with contributions of six hundred and thirty thousand dollars.
For me the response from the Gold Coast business community says a lot about the Gold Coast, which is very much misunderstood across our nation.
We are an entrepreneurial area full of people who are trying hard to create opportunities, stimulate the economy and create jobs. The business people on the Gold Coast are risk takers and a lot suffered through worldwide events such as the global financial crisis. But they keep bouncing back and in the hard times Gold Coast people understand the need in their community for them to contribute money for the Salvation Army who spend that money on the homeless, the addicted and the poor.
The monies that we have raised every year for the Red Shield Appeal are spent on the Gold Coast – that is an important driver for the contributions of the Gold Coast community.
Since 2000 the Gold Coast has raised, in the Red Shield Appeal from the breakfast, mail out and door knock appeal an average of 1 million dollars every year.
The breakfast itself over the last 16 years of my involvement has raised approximately five and a half million dollars – something that the Gold Coast can be very proud of.
From day one, when I took over as Chairman of the Appeal in 2000, I’ve had enormous support from the business community.
In particular, extraordinarily generous leadership by large donations has been given from the year 2000 and every year thereafter by the Reuben Pelerman Benevolent Fund, Judy Brinsmead and Bob Hill and Adco Construction Group, Soheil Abedian and the Sunland Group, and Michael Irwin from Pivotal Homes Group.
Great support has also been achieved every year consistently from businesses and people such as Hickey Lawyers, HTW Valuers, Darryl Gregor and Peter Heiner, Villaworld, Ray Group Pty Ltd, Brookfield Multiplex Ltd, Lutz & Associates, Terry Herbert and David Dodd and many, many others.
I have also welcomed great support from new investment groups to the Gold Coast. In particular I make mention of the huge generosity in 2015 and 2016 from Tony Fung and the Aquis Group. They readily accept that as investors in the area that they have an obligation and indeed they have a desire to contribute in many ways to the community.
It is wonderful to see people who are investing in the Gold Coast in a business sense accepting the responsibility of contributing to the community.
The owners, management and staff of the Crowne Plaza Hotel should be applauded for donating their time, the venue and the breakfast every year!
A big part of the structure of our breakfast is testimonials provided by those people who have been helped by the Salvation Army.
On many occasions I have been sitting in the wings listing to a heartfelt story and looking around a room of Gold Coast people with tears in their eyes.
The stories are real, the work of the Salvation Army is real and the need is always there.
People who give these testimonials are inspirations to the community and no one can under estimate how hard a task it is to get up in front of a sophisticated business audience and tell the story of the struggles of your life. It’s testament to the respect, love and appreciation these people have for the work the Salvation Army has done for them.
It is perhaps a clichéd statement about the Salvation Army, but when I think of them the phrase that really truly describes them the best is “Christianity with their sleeves rolled up.”
Danny, 29, is a Fairhaven graduate volunteer who grew up in Gladstone. At 16 he started using painkillers after a knee operation. Here, he shares his recovery story:
“From the first moment I had a drink I had a feeling of a changed perspective. I quickly coached my friends into telling my mum that I just drank normally, but I didn’t. As soon as I put a drink or drug in my system I was fine. Without them, I didn’t know what to do with myself or how to kill time. I was living at home and working in Gladstone and after I’d finished work I’d start drinking, getting through three or four bottles of wine a night.
“I moved to the Sunshine Coast and was in a good relationship for three years. Then it started falling apart. I started drinking and drugging to numb myself. The relationship ended and I started my recovery process. I was clean for several months before I moved to Brisbane and went to Moonyah rehab. A few months in, I was in some pain from my knee and went to hospital.
“I had a prescription for painkillers in my hand and before I knew it I’d fallen down the slope again. I was kicked out of my recovery house and lost everything. I was living between a friend’s couch and a homeless shelter. My mum, understandably, couldn’t support me any more. She’d tried but said I had to do this for myself. She was right, of course.
“My days fell apart. I lost myself in the cycle of drinking and drugging. One day, I tidied up my house and wrote goodbye letters to my family and friends. I left my house and I walked in front of a train. I wanted to die. But my plan to get out of my life didn’t work because the train stopped in front of me.
“The Salvation Army literally saved me. I came to Fairhaven, went through detox for 14 days and then into recovery meetings.
“Nine months later, I’ve stuck with the program. I’ve started setting goals for my life and my future. I’ve embraced the philosophies of AA and NA. I’m now a graduate volunteer here so I live here and commit 20 hours of my time every week. I drive participants to appointments regularly and help in the kitchen. I make sure people are fed! I’ve had a massive spiritual awakening and feel connected again.
“Sometimes, I see people arrive and worry they won’t make it. It’s hard to describe the feeling of watching them come back to life; seeing their eyes brighten and their smiles return. They reconnect with the world again, it’s amazing to see.
“I’m now studying medical science at TAFE. I’m not sure what my future holds but I hope it’s working with people in recovery.”
TURNING POINT ADMISSION CENTRE, 5 Windmill Street, Southport
(Tel: 1300 111 827).
As the name suggests, Turning Point is designed to be just that, a place where people can change their lives.
The Turning Point Assessment, Admissions and Extended Care office is the first point of contact for all calls made, referrals and walk in inquiries about addiction issues.
It’s also the service that clients engage with at the end of their treatment in Extended Care. Clients for Fairhaven are assessed and admitted via the Turning Point Office. The Team is highly skilled and together, has combined experience of over 45 years.
Turning Point makes available a holistic range of services including information, referrals, support sessions, and out-client services. Providing out-client programs and aftercare for individuals is an important part of recovery from addiction.
It supports ongoing engagement, motivation and healthy connections in the community. Extended Care is a service that meets the ongoing needs of individuals that have completed a Treatment Phase at Fairhaven. It’s important to remember that a high percentage of people that come out of the Fairhaven program are unemployed and homeless.
Karen Elliott is the Extended Care caseworker and her focus is connecting in the community. “A huge part of the work that I do is about connecting people who have been through detox and recovery back with the community,” she says. “People who have come through that experience wonder ‘who am I now? Where does this leave me?’ They need help with the fundamental needs of life. Extended Care is about people getting jobs, accommodation, new friends, hobbies and so on. I work to help them have hope and direction.”
Other Turning Point services include weekly relapse prevention groups and a 5-week course (like ‘Day-Hab’) designed to meet the need of people that are unable to access a long-term residential rehab.
Turning Point is also set up as a ‘drop in centre’ where past, present or prospective clients can call in, have a coffee and a chat in a safe environment.
Snapshot of Salvos on the GC
8000 calls a year from either phone calls, referrals or drop ins. Southport drop in centre is first point of contact, has coffee, a welcome lounge and meeting rooms.
Assistance begins immediately: housing, food, blankets.
Assessment: 1 hour identifying needs.
Detox: 7-10 days (average, individually assessed), Lines up with Centrelink so participants can receive continued support. Funding from the government covers detox which costs $1.2 million each year to run detox. That includes round the clock nursing, 24 hours, seven days a week and 11 beds.
Re-enter community: 16 weeks.
Entire program: 26 weeks.
Transition houses: 4 clients housed currently, each has own room. 3-month stay. Could easily fill another 2 more houses, have plan that works for integration would like to extend. Currently provide assistance with integration back into the community, PTSD, learning new coping skills, paying bills, practical assistance.
Can you help?
Remaining parts of the old building - the kitchen and dining room - desperately need replacing; the roof is leaking which causes problem during storms. That will cost $100,000 this year. Fairhaven also need a new fridge and freezer, and has a problem maintaining sewerage that’s been breaking down over the last two years. It’s currently costing $20,000 every year to fix. They want to get it fixed once and for all, which will cost $70,000.
Gold Coast Salvos needs help with fundraising and local businesses to help with support in the community.
Contact: Rowan Johnstone, 0407 142 014.
Fairhaven (Rehab Accommodation & Detox Unit), 168 Macdonnell Road, Eagle Heights, Mount Tamborine, Gold Coast. Phone: 5604 7000.