A $1 million partnership between mining giant BHP and homeless support service charity St Bart’s to help prevent homelessness has been turning lives around.

The Reconnecting Lives program – which supports people though a ‘housing first approach – aims to end the cycle of homelessness by providing continuous support from project case managers throughout the program’s 18-month lifespan.  

BHP Petroleum General Manager Australia Graham Salmond has been a champion of the program, having previously led work teams in volunteering on homelessness projects in Houston, Texas and was keen for his BHP team in Perth to get behind St Bart’s through volunteering and engagement.

Almost 400 BHP employees volunteered with St Bart’s over the seven months to December last year and heard real-life stories on homelessness from St Bart’s clients who wanted to speak out on this issue.

One client – Petra – says despite some earlier ‘dismal failures’ at attempting to live independently, she was now confident of success, thanks to the program.

“I’ve tried to live independently on my own, about three times. They were all dismal failures. I couldn’t stand my own company. I didn’t have any outside supports. So each time the mental health system really let me down, which meant I had to go back to hostel living – it wasn’t good,” Petra said.

“This property in particular is nice and big: it’s roomy, it’s furnished really nicely and it’s given me the opportunity to do what I’ve been learning for the last 18 months at (St Bart’s Mental Health Support Services).

“This home means everything to me – this is my future – and because I feel ready now to have a future, it means everything to me.”

Former client – Daniel – said he was on the streets for a few years before he even knew there were services.

“It wasn’t until I met a person on the street, who told me about St Bart’s so I got in touch and got in, and my experiences so far have been wonderful,” he said.

“When I came to St Bart’s I had a pair of shorts and a t-shirt but these days I have everything I need, I’ve got my life back so much. I’ve got a job, I’ve got clothes, I’ve got a laptop. Everything they’ve put down for me has just helped me so much.”

There are almost 10,000 people homeless on any given night in WA, with about 10 per cent of those sleeping on the streets. The rest are in refuges, emergency accommodation, couch surfing, lodging houses, cars, squats or in overcrowded accommodation.

St Bart’s stresses that homelessness can and does happen to anyone with considerable hardship and a challenging set of circumstances. The main causes of homelessness are:

  • domestic violence and family relationship breakdown
  • financial difficulties, e.g. loss of job/income or under-employment
  • unaffordable accommodation or lack of housing
  • mental health issues and lack of support in difficult times.

 “This partnership program with BHP means we at St Bart’s can help create pathways out of homelessness for people like Petra, and others. It’s really exciting for us and an important opportunity for those we can assist,” St Bart’s CEO John Berger says.

“BHP stands out as a corporate leader in supporting homelessness in WA and we applaud their commitment to what is a big issue in the community.”

► St Bart’s and BHP are valued CCI Members. Find out more about how you can support St Bart’s here