Supporting the isolated and vulnerable in Darebin
A new initiative from the Order of Malta and ACU Hub in Melbourne is a Social Engagement Program at the Agg Street housing estate located within the City of Darebin local government area. The program aims to provide the 55 residents at the estate, who are all over the age of 65 and living alone, with an opportunity for social connection.
The need for this project was identified during the height of the pandemic and lockdown, when community services went ‘door knocking’ in the area to provide welfare checks on residents. This exercise revealed a large number of individuals ‘trapped’ in their accommodation due to physical and/or mental health who were unable to access many welfare services and were isolated from the wider community.
As a result, the Social Engagement Program launched at the start of December 2022 and involves members and volunteers visiting the estate on a weekly basis at the on-site community room. Volunteers socialise with the residents who are also offered tea, coffee, fresh fruit, biscuits, and fresh salad rolls. The volunteers initial focus is to build awareness and trust in our service with the residents and, if successful, the longer-term goal will be to expand the program and co-design additional projects and services based on needs identified in these interactions.
“We are off to a good start with numbers increasing each time and as we get to know more of the residents”, explains Order of Malta member and volunteer, Mary Long. ”We will learn more about their expectations of the program and it may be that they just like a cuppa and the company and a chance to chat or it may evolve into the chance to play a game, or do a jigsaw together over a period of time. We shall see, but so far, so good”.
Residents also seem to be enjoying the interaction; “It helps me feel seen” explains Paul*. “It’s a great way to get residents out of their homes and meeting other residents”.
The start-up expense for the initiative was funded by a grant from the Global Fund for the Forgotten People and the program is currently scheduled to run until the end of March 2023. A further extension of the program will depend on feedback from residents and volunteers – and our ability to secure ongoing funding.
Early indications are that the project has been well received, with Order of Malta member and volunteer Judy Ryan commenting, “It is quite clear that this program is needed. What we do and how we do it will improve as we get more experience. These good people are – to varying degrees – isolated, lonely, and vulnerable.”
*Name changed for privacy
Please consider a donation to help us continue the Agg Street Social Engagement Program. Gifts $2 and more are tax deductible for Australian tax payers.