Vision to end homelessness

Guest speaker Andrew Hogan at WBA breakfast
Guest speaker Andrew Hogan at WBA breakfast

The chief executive of the East Perth-based St Bartholomew’s House told last week’s Wanneroo Business Association breakfast he had been on a picnic ‘with the guys living in our aged care program’.

One of the long-time residents, Carlos, asked the former priest and funeral company general manager who he would sack first.

Colleagues were quick to quip that it would be ‘you, Carlos’.

‘Impossible,’ he replied in his Argentinean accent, ‘I do not work here’.

Later he tapped the new CEO on the shoulder and said there were two other reasons.

‘You cannot sack me because I am family,’ he said.

‘You cannot sack me because I am loved.’

It left the St Bart’s boss thinking of the wisdom of Carlos and the words of an old Franciscan priest he was stationed with as a young priest about 25 years ago.

He was teaching Mr Hogan how to be a good confessor and that when someone came to him about their life ‘your only goal at that moment is to receive the person as they are, without judgement, without pigeonholing, without labelling’.

‘When Carlos said to me you can’t sack me because I’m part of the family and because I am loved he was giving me that message again that our job at St Bart’s is to receive the person as they are,’ Mr Hogan said.

‘And to walk with them on a journey from there to there so when they leave our service they are better off than when they came in.

‘So we are a transformative type of organisation. We are a homeless service but we are not a night shelter, not an overnight accommodation provider.

‘We are an organisation involved in supporting people on a journey; they make a commitment to us and we make a commitment to them to support them and then try to move them to a better place.

‘Of course that doesn’t always happen, and lots of people say to me why do you have a vision to eliminate homelessness that will probably never come true. Well the vision is the light on the hill, it’s the aspiration goal we all have. But our day-to-day mission is to support the homeless today to rebuild their lives and act to prevent homelessness for tomorrow.’