I first heard about Ruah when I was writing about the “Essentials for Women of Perth” campaign. Basically the campaign is an initiative started by a local Perth lady to gather donations of goods for homeless women and for women in crisis care. Essentials such as sanitary products, underwear and toiletries.
(You can read the amazing story about the campaign and details of how to donate here or at the end of this article.)
When discussing the campaign I asked how these essential goods were going to be distributed and where they were to be stored and I was told that the campaign was operating in conjunction with Ruah; a not for profit organisation that provides services in the areas of housing and homelessness to the people of Perth.
Despite having lived in Perth for most of my life and leading a fairly curious existence I had never heard of Ruah or the drop-in centre or all the wonderful things they are doing on the streets of Perth. So I decided to learn more about it and spread the word.
Ruah itself is a community services organisation which has offices throughout Perth that all work to support those who are disadvantaged or marginalised in the community. Some of the Ruah services have been around for over 50 years and Ruah now provides services in housing, homelessness, mental health, domestic and family violence and women leaving prison.
The name ‘Ruah’ is a Hebrew word meaning “Wind, Breath, Spirit.”
The Ruah Centre which is situated at 33 Shenton Street in Northbridge, right on Russell Square, is a homeless drop-in centre. It has been in existence for more than 50 years, 13 of those under the Ruah banner. It is a facility which welcomes drop-ins of homeless and disadvantaged people on a daily basis. The Ruah Centre is open from 9am to 1pm Monday to Friday and provides clients with a safe place to find information, relax, shower, have something to eat or drink and mix with other people in an inclusive, respectful space.
The Ruah Centre welcomes adults from 20 years of age and above, (there are other centres around Perth which cater for homeless youths.) Everyone is welcome regardless of culture, background, sexuality, religion or disability.
The centre helps about 100 people a day, many of whom are regulars. About 75% of them are men; women often go to women’s refuges and other facilities with a more female focus. We spoke to Matthew Nichols, the manager at The Ruah Centre who told us that the main reasons people find themselves homeless are unemployment, financial issues, marriage breakdowns, domestic violence, drug and alcohol problems and the biggest reason; mental illness. Matthew estimates about 80% of the clients have some form of mental illness from anxiety and depression to severe schizophrenia. “We provide a safe and neutral place.” he explains. A temporary escape from the streets. “If a range of appropriate housing and support was available, life could be very different for the people who come to the centre.” Matthew explained.
When entering the drop in centre there is a check-in reception space with a security guard (especially trained for the service) which opens into a larger room full of colour and movement. There are people on computers and phones, people drinking tea and coffee and people walking back from the shower area. The Ruah Centre is big on empowerment and skill development, they try to foster independence within the clients. There is a kitchen at the back which provides tea, coffee and fruit and any other food that is donated. The clients prepare their own food and clean up after themselves. There are also showers available with donated toiletries, again the clients must keep these areas clean and tidy.
I walk past two gentlemen playing pool.
“Do you want to take my picture?” One of them calls out to me.
“Hang on I’ll put my best shoes on for ya!” he says with a cheeky grin.
There are 6 telephones and 4 computers in The Ruah Centre which people can use to make necessary phone calls and look things up online. This is especially useful for places like Centrelink and other government departments that can be difficult and time consuming to contact. Ruah staff and volunteers guide people through the process and in some cases teach basic skills such as how to Google something. They are also available to help with resumes and accommodation requests.
The Ruah Centre provides access to vital services such as The Mobile GP doctor and nurses who come by the centre 3 days a week. There are also law services who will assist with any legal matters, drug and alcohol counselling, financial planning help and Centrelink representatives also visit the centre to offer assistance. Ruah has also had hairdressers in the past who have offered their services, as people in crisis situations rarely spend their energy and money on personal care such as haircuts.
Ruah offers a direct mail service which means that clients can have their mail sent to the centre to be collected. This is especially important with Centrelink payments and housing communication. Matthew explains that there is a 3-5 year wait for houses in the system and if a letter is sent out advising of a vacancy and the person cannot be reached, they will miss out.
Staff at The Ruah Centre work one on one with the clients to help them with whatever they need. “They provide continuity, help with goal setting, accommodation, medical needs, each case is different.” Matthew explains, “it’s important to gain trust though, a lot of these people have been through really tough times and things out there can be pretty bad, it takes a while but we earn their trust.”
There is a TV room on site where clients can have some peace and quiet time and they can do art and craft projects. The Ruah Centre also runs recreational activities such as pool games and bingo tournaments.
Ruah also has an Outreach program where staff will go out onto the streets and find people in need. They have a chat, tell them about the centre, hand out cards which explain where the drop in facility is located and discuss the services it offers and they ascertain if there is any other help needed. Matthew tells us that most of the clients hear about the centre through this Outreach program as well as word of mouth. People talk to each other on the streets.
There is no doubt that The Ruah Centre and places like it are doing a much needed and amazing job for the community but unfortunately their opening hours are limited. “There is a need for us to be open 24 hours a day,” Matthew tells us, but with only 2.6 staff they can only do so much.
As I leave The Ruah Centre I can’t help but think of those 100 people who use the centre each day and rely on it as a refuge from what I can only imagine happens on the streets. Ruah, the staff and volunteers are undoubtedly offering a wonderful service to people in need.
“We’re really big on creating a unified and respectful environment,” Matthew says, “It’s not us and them here, we’re all in it together.”
Ruah is state and federally funded but they also need donations to supplement limited funding, more information about donating is available on the website here – Donations
Ruah are always looking for volunteers so if you would like more information please click here- Contact
For more information on Ruah and what they do click here: Ruah website
The “Essentials For Women of Perth” campaign finishes up this Sunday (30th November) so there is still time to donate if you are able.
Our article explains more and lists the drop off points.
The link is here: Essentials For Women Of Perth
After this Sunday you can still donate but it has to be to Ruah directly.
This campaign has done really well- so far they have received….
Over 3000 pairs of women’s underwear.
Over 1800 packets of sanitary items.
Plus hundreds of cans of deodorant, shampoo, soap, toothpaste etc.
….and counting…. It will all be used.
Can you help those less fortunate before Christmas?