Thank God for the Salvos – a look at the what the Salvation Army does in Perth

Mark Curtis

MARK Curtis has good reason to say: “Thank God for the Salvos.”

The 48-year-old former homeless man told Have a Go News: “They changed my life.”

From drug-addicted battler to a society contributor, Mark has turned around his fortunes and has a new outlook on life. With new rewards.

Six years after entering the Salvation Army’s Harry Hunter Recovery Centre, Mark runs the centre’s vegetable and fruit garden, supplying produce to Salvo kitchens.

We take a guided-tour of Mark’s corner at the Gosnells converted farm – a space he developed and grew with no prior gardening knowledge over three years.

“I’m the community garden co-ordinator,” says one of society’s former forgotten men.

Mark has become a valued and paid support worker at the centre. And he has other ideas and hopes for use by the centre’s recovering addicts, that of creating a native garden and an amphitheatre where instruments can be played and events held.

For support, the Salvos need corporate contributors as well as government funding. Longtime supporters include Dale Alcock Homes and Bunnings.

Our tour, led by manager Michael Gray, demonstrates how useful and successful the Harry Hunter Recovery Centre is with more than 230 addicts entering programs every year.

The sweeping grounds are therapeutic with ducks on a lake, pet birds with shaded areas, meeting places including a chapel and activities for the men and women whose quarters are kept separate.

Michael says the 40-bed centre provides a minimum 13-week residential program with clients completing positive lifestyle classes.

They receive counselling, work therapy through the garden and some farming and social activities. There’s crafts, sport, music, lectures and religious sessions.

Clients gather to eat together for every meal, including breakfast which follows a walk after they are woken at 7am.

Clients also include non-volunteers, offenders where courts have chosen the centre for them over jail terms. Some are on parole. Salvos are turning them around, integrating them into society.

It’s working. In a world where drugs have tragically taken and ruined lives, where families have been disrupted or devastated and politicians everywhere appear at a loss, Salvo programs, running 24/7, are making headway in WA.

Their goal: “To reduce the impact of alcohol and other drug misuse on individuals, families, local communities and resources” is being achieved week after week.

Michael says that with more sponsors, Salvo facilities and services can be improved and updated with new ones introduced. A bus would come in handy to transport clients to the station or to shops.

The Salvos also have The Bridge Program that provides a range of residential and non-residential alcohol and other drugs treatment services to individuals and families affected by substance abuse. This service is delivered at the centre in Highgate.

Tour of Harry Hunter Recovery Centre led by manager Michael Gray

Within The Bridge House there are two distinct facilities offered. A Sobering-Up Centre operates 24 hours-a-day for intoxicated individuals with 14 beds and a safe place to sober-up.

Clients receive a meal, hot shower and an opportunity to have their clothes washed. A detox centre provides a five-seven day ‘low medical’ residential detox service.

Over a one-year period it costs $5,000 to provide one serve of breakfast, lunch and dinner each day.  To provide educational resources, costs $8,000 for each client. And $27,000 provides a month of counselling and case management to 32 clients in the Bridge program.

To employ a family counsellor costs $50,000.

Mark Curtis is among countless thousands who continue to say: “Thank God for the Salvos.”