A YOUNG child is gradually learning how to interact with other children in a safe play environment.
The child had presented at SalvoConnect in Ballarat with severely stunted physical and cognitive development. Born in to a life of family violence, the young child had little social interaction with other children and had a strained relationship to his mother.
Homeless, and in need, the mother sought help. She had high anxiety, a result of her trauma, and was socially isolated in Ballarat.
A SalvoConnect children’s support worker helped link the family with a maternal child health nurse and chiropractor to improve movement in the child’s arms and legs.
Childcare and three-year-old kindergartens programs promoted the child’s social skills and allowed the mother time to address her trauma.
Walking Home funds covered costs and also allowed the mother and child a chance to bond in Mum and Bub sessions and swim lessons. Funds also provided the child with bedroom furniture to offer a safe and nurturing sleep and play environment at home.
Walking Home is the Salvation Army’s major fundraiser to tackle homelessness across the region. The Ballarat event makes every step count in child support programs, supplies and counselling.
Distances range from three to 18 kilometres, with start points in Smythesdale, Haddon and Lucas. All finish together in Victoria Park about lunchtime.
SalvoConnect Ballarat helps more than 300 children each year.
The young child in this story, who The Courier has chosen not to identify, now regularly attends day-care and kindergarten and has started to make lots of friends.
The child no longer shows difficulty in motor skills and has started to meet developmental milestones since linking up with programs and support through SalvoConnect children’s programs. They are showing less anxiety.
Children’s programs support families who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or have experienced family violence and trauma.
Walking Home is on Saturday with a 9am start in Smythesdale, 10.15am start in Haddon and noon start from Lucas. Online registration has closed, but people can register at each start. Details: salvationarmy.org.au/walkinghomeballarat.
Homelessness on rise
FAMILY violence is a key factor in almost 60 per cent of homeless cases presenting to SalvoConnect in Ballarat.
Two in five Victorians experiencing homelessness are children and young people, according to Australian Census data released this week.
Salvation Army figures show 581 Ballarat children under nine years old had been homeless at some point in 2015-16. Of those aged under-25, 894 people presented for help with homelessness.
Census data shows an 11.3 per cent statewide increase in homelessness since 2011, in which Ballarat had a homelessness rate of 444 per 100,000 people.
Couch surfing, living in rooming houses and severe overcrowding are on the rise.
Grampians Homeless Network’s Jax Roan, speaking at Ballarat Grammar’s sleep out last year, said the network’s single largest client group was children, aged under-16, accompanying their parents.
Single, middle-aged women sleeping rough, or in their cars, was also on the rise which Ms Roan anecdotally said was usually a result from finance struggles in broken marriages and a lack of housing affordability amid the rising cost of living.
The state’s peak body for homelessness says the new Census data should be a “wake-up call” and urged the Federal Government to release a housing and homelessness plan. Council to Homeless Persons chief executive officer Jenny Smith said under funding in support services and housing affordability exacerbated the issue.
“Homelessness is not a lifestyle choice, it reflects systems failure, and most critically, a shortage of affordable housing,” Ms Smith said.