60 years of community service is a significant milestone and one that we are incredibly proud to have achieved. As a slice of history, 60 years may seem a short passage of time. But when you consider the decades of social, political and cultural change, the journey of St Bart’s is nothing short of inspirational.
Perth in 1963 was a very different world to the one we find ourselves in today.
The mining boom was beginning to mark Western Australia as the State of Opportunity. The population was increasing, the economy was thriving, and urban development was growing away from the inner city and sprawling up the coast.
Good fortune for some meant the gaps between the affluent and the disadvantaged and vulnerable grew much wider. For much of 1963, Indigenous West Australians were still denied the right to vote, their first electoral rights were not granted in WA until November that year.
East Perth, once a thriving working-class suburb, was now industrialised and houses lay dilapidated and empty.
A new Anglican Archbishop arrived in Perth, the Reverend George Appleton, and formed a friendship with Dr James Watson, a community-minded pediatric doctor who was particularly interested in aged care and helping disadvantaged people.
The two men couldn’t help but notice that the streets around the Anglican rectory in East Perth were filling with a large population of people experiencing homelessness, men suffering from alcohol abuse, and vulnerable families who were sleeping in temporary shelters like the rail yards, the cemetery and surrounding derelict buildings.
Determined to provide help in whatever small way they could, they opened the doors of the Anglican East Perth rectory as a shelter for destitute men, putting a few mattresses on the floor and providing a safe shelter to those in need.
Those few mattresses quickly grew to accommodate around 30 men each night – makeshift beds were set up in the garden when room ran out. A small meal was provided on a shoestring budget – 30 men had to take turns to share just six knives and forks!
Initially named the Anglican Social Welfare Centre, the rectory was renamed St Bartholomew’s House for Homeless Men in 1965, taking inspiration from St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, one of the oldest hospitals in the UK with a long history of providing care for the needy and homeless.
In the Australian way, the name was quickly and affectionally shortened to St Bart’s, and so we began to stand by the side of vulnerable and disadvantaged people in our community for 60 years.
Today, the spirit of the Rev George Appleton and Dr James Watson lives on. St Bart’s is still very much a part of the Anglican family and holds the values of care, commitment and social justice at the heart of the organisation.
We have grown over 60 years from a small shelter for 30 men to a progressive, inclusive organisation that provides support to nearly 600 people every day who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness, living with mental health challenges or requiring supportive aged care.
At St Bart’s, our vision is for a community where everyone has a safe and secure place to call home. And through practical support, innovative services and powerful advocacy, we work tirelessly towards achieving that goal.
St Bart’s now provides supported, short-term accommodation to men, women and families who are experiencing homelessness, providing a safe haven while working with them to actively seek a long-term, permanent housing solution.
We are the only provider of homeless residential aged care in Western Australia. The James Watson Centre provides care for up to 40 men aged 50 and over who have experienced chronic homelessness, many who have complex health needs. In addition, we operate a homecare service to support older people to live independently in their own homes for as long as they are able.
We are proud to extend our support to all marginalised and disadvantaged people in the community, providing mental health supported accommodation, offering community housing options for low-income earners, and as a member of ReSet consortium, supporting people to rejoin the community after leaving correctional services.
In 2020 we were the proud recipient of the IPAA Award for Excellence in the Not-For-Profit Sector for our Reconnecting Lives Program – an innovative housing-first model that provides wrap-around support to consumers transitioning into independent living to help them resolve the issues that may have contributed to their homelessness and prevent the revolving door cycle. Since it piloted in 2018 the program, originally funded by BHP, has successfully supported over 326 people and has a 100% success rate of maintaining tenancy for those in long term accommodation.
In 2021, we held our inaugural Say G’day Day on 8 October to help shine a light on the positive impact a simple acknowledgment can have on people doing it tough on Perth’s streets. Now entering its third year, the campaign is gaining momentum with significant support from the corporate and Anglican communities.
In 2023 we were proud to complete major renovations to our Lime Street property which provides accommodation for men experiencing homelessness, aged care accommodation and St Bart’s head office within the one precinct. The innovative design enables consumers and staff to live and work side by side allowing for healing, connection and improved emotional well being for all.
Our CEO Sam Drury feels privileged to be able to look back on a rich history full of spirit, determination and care and is incredibly proud of the thriving, progressive, inclusive organisation that St Bart’s has become. While the services and resources have grown since those first days in 1963, the commitment to make a difference remains as strong.
“We may have more than 6 knives and forks to share around these days, but as we stand here 60 years later, the demand for support and services continues to outstrip what the sector is able to supply.”
“Perth’s housing affordability and supply crisis was laid bare over the last few years and continues to worsen. As was the case 60 years ago, when Dr Watson partnered with the Anglican Church, we truly believe that partnerships will provide the solution to Perth’s homelessness crisis”, Sam Drury said.
“If we all work together, we can solve homelessness. Our partnerships with local, state and federal governments, the Anglican church, our sector colleagues, and our valued corporate supporters have allowed us to provide innovative services such as the Reconnecting Lives Program that have proven results. It is those partnerships that will help us deliver what vulnerable people in our community need now,” she added.
This year St Bart’s is continuing to pursue innovation and collaboration to expand the services available to vulnerable people in our community and we are working to bring our most ambitious project to date to fruition.
Titled St Bart’s 140, the vision is to provide 140 additional safe and secure homes for vulnerable people, back in the original home of St Bart’s in East Perth. An 80 bed residential aged care facility for homeless men and women with complex psycho-social needs and up to 60 social housing units will be built.
“As we celebrate our 60th anniversary and reflect on what we’ve achieved, we’re also very aware of the challenges that lie ahead. Yes, our goals are ambitious, but if we work together they’re eminently achievable. And one thing’s for certain, we will make it our business to ensure that vulnerable people in our community have someone by their side.” Samantha Drury said.