Stories of hope

*stock images used and names and details changed to protect the privacy of the people we help


Ed was in 50s when he first came to St Mary’s House of Welcome. Homeless and lonely, he had recently moved to Melbourne from interstate.

Ed had been unemployed for about ten years, after being retrenched from a long-term job in a factory in his home town. Initially he came to St Mary’s House of Welcome for friendship and food. Then, feeling better about himself than he had in a long time, he decided that he wanted to get back into the workforce.

Over a 12-month period, our community workers and volunteers helped him with all the things he needed to get a job. These included: emergency relief, financial assistance and meals; clothing and toiletries; housing assistance and supports; providing a telephone contact and computer access; support to access medical and optometry services; connecting to Centrelink and employment services; advocacy and support; and assistance with obtaining a driver’s licence.

During this time, St Mary’s House of Welcome was also a place where Ed could sit, read, chat, socialise, and strengthen his sense of self-worth.

Before too long, Ed achieved his goal, obtaining a labouring job which gave him enough money to live simply. Best of all, Ed regained a sense of pride in himself that had been missing for far too long. Ed credits his time using the services at St Mary’s House of Welcome as having been vital to him finding his purpose again and getting back on his feet.


Wendy was born in Collingwood, Melbourne and she was one of three children. Her younger years were not easy as she experienced bullying throughout her school years, due to a being born with a speech impediment. However, Wendy remembers years with her whole family as happy ones. Until her father passed away suddenly. Her father is a man that she describes as a pure gentleman. It was after this tremendous loss that Wendy’s life came to a crossroad.

Wendy’s mother remarried shortly after the loss of her father, and Wendy’s life was turned upside down. She experienced family violence at home and later become a victim of family violence. Like many women, after many years of abuse, Wendy made the brave choice to leave. As a result, Wendy found herself homeless and disconnected from family, friends, and more importantly, her children.

Wendy became chronically entrenched in homelessness for more than 10 years. One day, Wendy was walking up Brunswick Street Fitzroy when she saw a “WELCOME” sign.  Not knowing what this place was or what the word “WELCOME” inferred, she was cold and hungry, so she willingly went inside. She had found St Mary’s House of Welcome.

Wendy talks about having an instant sense of safety, warmth, compassion and love upon entering St Mary’s House of Welcome; something she hadn’t felt since she was a child when her father was still alive. Wendy connected to St Mary’s House of Welcome as St Mary’s House of Welcome connected to her.

It has been more than 12 years since Wendy first walked through those doors on Brunswick Street and so much positive change has occurred in Wendy’s life since then. With ongoing support and commitment from staff at St Mary’s House of Welcome, Wendy now finally has a place of her own to call home. No longer homeless and disconnected, and now with a supportive friendship group, Wendy has proudly made the successful transition from service user to a regular volunteer. Assisting with St Mary’s House of Welcome meals program by serving breakfast and lunch four days a week, is Wendy’s way of giving back to the community that has given her so much.

Wendy has dreams, loves and passions (like Elvis), but St Mary’s House of Welcome is now so much more to Wendy than just another service to attend. St Mary’s House of Welcome has become her home, and more importantly, her family.


Joanne is 43 years old, and lives in a women only rooming house.  She receives the Disability Support Pension, and volunteers one day a week in the dining room at St Mary’s House of Welcome.

Joanne has two children, a daughter aged nine, and a 21 year old son. Joanne’s younger daughter lives with her grandparents, and she has no support from or contact with them. She does have occasional phone contact with her son.

Joanne has a mild intellectual disability and needs assistance in reading and writing. She has epilepsy and is on regular medication to help manage her seizures; she suffers from grand mal seizures and is prone to physical injury from falling.  She reports she is more prone to seizures when she is stressed. She also suffers from depression and post traumatic stress disorder.

Joanne has been a long term service user at St Mary’s House of Welcome. She comes here every day for meals and finds immense comfort in the friendships she has formed here over the years. Joanne says, St Mary’s House of Welcome is like her family, her reason for getting up each day.

Recently, Joanne decided that she wanted to find her own place to live. She had never had a place of her own, and has lived rough since she was a teenager. She has always felt vulnerable because of the immense insecurity of this position.

With help from her support worker at St Mary’s House of Welcome, Joanne secured a room in a women only rooming house. For the first time in her adult life, Joanne has her own room.

Since moving into stable accommodation, Joanne is making better decisions in her personal life and is putting herself first, as a result of her increased independence. She is motivated to improve her health, and volunteer more often.

Tess is enjoying living independently and is happy with her current living arrangements.

There are hundreds more stories with beginnings just as troubled, and stories of transformation just as positive. To help us continue the vital work we do at St Mary’s House of Welcome, please do what you can to offer support.

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