New program to improve lives of homeless men

A SUCCESSFUL grant from the Tasmanian Community Fund (TCF) has helped launch a $583,000 support program for homeless men at Bethlehem House.

The program will run for four years and will teach homeless men life skills, helping them to reintegrate back into the community.

“People need a range of basic skills like financial literacy, reading and writing, being able to engage with the world online and having good mental health supports,” Bethlehem House chief executive officer Stephanie Kirkman Meikle said.

“The program works in all of those areas, as well as aiming to build community participation.”

Mrs Kirkman Meikle said the program would improve the lives of homeless men and help provide the sustainable support systems they needed.

“If you have all your accommodation needs met, you’re well fed and you have someone who can listen and help you with your case management – those are the basic supports we provide normally,” she said.

“What this program does is give them something where they can build constructive, supportive frameworks that they can take back out into work afterwards.

“We don’t want to be investing in a program which doesn’t hit the right spots, so we will be reactive and if we are helping people at the key points when they need some supports then we’ll make a difference.”

Mrs Kirkman Meikle said Bethlehem House supported more than 170 men every year, with some staying on for several months or even years.

“Thanks to the funding from the TCF, we’ve been able to provide additional staff to deliver the program, which will lead to better outcomes for our residents,” she said.

TCF chairperson Sally Darke said the TCF was pleased to offer fundraising support through community wellbeing-focused grants to programs such as this.

“This program provides a much-needed helping hand to homeless men who are emerging from crisis and wanting to make positive behaviour and life choices,” she said.

“The program not only reduces repeat homelessness and the reliance on drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms, it also seeks to have a positive impact on the wellbeing of these men’s lives, giving them the skills to fully reintegrate into the community.

“We look forward to seeing the positive impact it will have over the next four years.”

Mrs Kirkman Meikle said TCF was contributing more than $100,000 a year, with more revenue coming from donations to Bethlehem House.

The program partners are Hobart Library, who are teaching computer skills, and Chatter Matters, who are helping people improve their literacy skills.

“We all need strong communities with skilled people able to function by themselves and to help others,” Mrs Kirkman Meikle said.

“We’re helping to build this strong community by helping build strong resilient people.”

Caption: Bethlehem House chief executive officer Stephanie Kirkman Meikle, left, and Tasmanian Community Fund board member Frank Barta have launched a new program to improve the lives of homeless men.