The Christmas canine bridging gaps between staff and the vulnerable

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Staffordshire bull terrier Roxy (pictured) helps frontline workers “break the ice” with vulnerable people sleeping rough around Adelaide. [Source: Uniting SA]

A special four-legged friend is helping frontline charity workers build trust with South Australians living rough this festive season.  

With less than a month until Christmas, Uniting SA has found that people who present to their services are already isolated, lonely or in financial crisis – unfortunate situations Christmas can sometimes exacerbate.

Homelessness is a worsening crisis, particularly among vulnerable older people or people with disabilities as the country’s housing and cost of living crises worsen with inflation. Women over 55 are among the fastest-growing demographic to experience homelessness in Australia, with over 7,000 reported to be homeless in the 2021 Census.

The situation is so dire that aged care providers such as James Milson Village in Syndey and Southern Cross Care in Western Australia have looked into solutions to help keep older people off of the streets. 

Uniting SA frontline workers have had to find ways to break down barriers to people accessing their services who often struggle to ask for help and start meaningful conversations to determine how best to support them.

This is where a six-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier and valued Uniting SA team member Roxy comes in to help. She, like many other dogs loves pats, naps and chicken but she also has an important role to play in helping those down and out. 

Presenting a friendly, furry face, Roxy helps outreach workers build trusting relationships and “break the ice” with people who would normally be reluctant to talk or ask for assistance.

Roxy has developed a fan base among local people in need and many of them look forward to her visits – giving her cuddles while outreach workers prompt meaningful conversations.

In 2023, the UnitingSA branch of the Adelaide North West Homelessness Alliance (ANWHA) has provided four times the number of sleeping bags than its usual monthly average and helped twice as many people sleeping rough during the winter months.

Uniting SA’s Christmas Appeal program helps many of these people at this time of year, benefitting from donated funds or gifts. 

They may attend their Christmas Day lunch, choose a gift for a younger loved one from their toy room, or access emergency relief and practical supplies.

To support the Christmas Appeal you can:

  • Make a once-off or regular, monthly tax-deductible donation online, via phone or by posting a cheque along with your contact details to UnitingSA, PO Box 3032, Port Adelaide, SA 5015
  • Gift new, unused items to the Emergency Relief Centre in Port Adelaide between 9am and 3pm, Monday to Friday
  • Register your workplace, school or community group as a Community Host Collector and invite your networks to donate gifts and raise funds
  • Purchase SOS Socks or some specially designed Christmas Cards

For further information send an email to fundraisingandpartnerships@unitingsa.com.au or call 8440 2200.

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