Off the streets, into progress: St Patricks Community Support Centre

FOR Rohan Jayawardene, every small goal he sees others reach is considered a massive achievement.

The St Patricks Community Support Centre caseworker is a one-man-team on a mission to help those living with mental illness and homelessness to get off the streets and find purpose in their lives.

Mr Jayawardene said he believed even small achievements like reuniting his clients with their estranged families or seeing them start a Tafe course were big steps, but it was finding them housing that made all the good things happen.

“I have three clients who have gone to university, several have gone to Tafe and having a home made the biggest difference,” he said.

“Having a place to live makes a big difference because that gives them a head start into looking at other options and what goals they want to achieve.”

Those who are homeless and living with mental illness issues are typically the hardest to home, but with the help of financial backing from the Department for Child Protection and Family Support’s Mental Health Housing Support Program, Mr Jayawardene has helped close to 50 find and keep long term housing.

In the five years he has worked with St Patricks, he has never had one of his clients evicted.

He said helping people was a calling he felt compelled to do.

“It’s a rewarding job. It’s rewarding to see people meet their potential when you empower them and they go on to meet their goals,” he said.

“I had one client who attempted suicide five times, but with all the services we provided her she went into Tafe, got a part-time job, and now she has gone on to buy her own property through the Department of Housing’s Open Doors program. Those are the outcomes I work for.”

If you need someone to talk to, call Lifeline on 131 114.