SAHSSI 30 Walk 2018

SAHSSI Shoalhaven manager Lesley  Labka and her staff hopes the community supports their upcoming walk.
SAHSSI Shoalhaven manager Lesley Labka and her staff hopes the community supports their upcoming walk.

When a child has been through a horrendous domestic violence situation normality is one of the things they crave.

The chance to go on a school excursion or a sporting trip would help the healing process.

Sadly many of these innocent children don’t have the money to pay for these pleasures, like a trip to the movies or a zoo, that many others take for granted.

Luckily the dedicated team from SAHSSI (Supported Accommodation & Homelessness Services Shoalhaven Illawarra) steps in to provide care, comfort and support.

The SAHSSI budget is tight but the group’s Shoalhaven manager Lesley Labka said they always try to find extra money.

“We use the extra funding we get to buy little food vouchers so people can go and get food on the weekend,” she said

“About 90 per cent of the women we support are on a pension and so they are living on or below the poverty line. That means everything is expensive for them.”

Some of us are already handicapped before we start the race

Lesley Labka

Ms Labka said helping people in need was not just about the healing and recovery process but trying to get normality back into their lives.

“It is about not making a child feels as though they are no different to other children,” she said.

When there is no extra “fat” to slice off the budget Ms Labka said they appreciate any donation they get from the public.

It was a stunned Ms Labka last year when she got a call from Huskisson resident Jo Warren who had an offer she couldn't refuse.

The call was totally unexpected.

“Jo said she wanted to support us, arrange a 30-kilometre walk and that it would not be any extra effort for us. I thought the offer was just wonderful,” she said.

“I would say the community's generosity is one the things that balances some of the sad stories we hear.

“The community in the Shoalhaven are so generous. Just the other day the CWA members came up with the ute full of food.”

This year’s walk is on Saturday, August 11 and will support women and children in crisis.

People will walk 30 kilometres from Huskisson’s White Sands Park to Booderee National Park and back.

Go to https://www.sahssi.org.au to sign up or www.facebook.com/events/385071678569777/ to get more information.

Ms Labka said last year’s walk was a great day and the atmosphere was overwhelmingly positive.

“It had such a good vibe and Jo had all these lovely volunteers there to help along the way,” she said.

“People came back after 30 kilometres and they were still smiling.

“I was so appreciative of Jo for doing all that and I was surprised by the number of people who got on board with it.”

“The aim was to get 50 people to raise $5000 and it raised over  $14,000.

“The funds meant a massive amount to us.”

Jo Warren is once again the driving force behind the SAHSSI walk.

Jo Warren is once again the driving force behind the SAHSSI walk.

Where the money goes

The money from last year went towards buying whitegoods (fridge washing machines) and other households items.

All the money raised went towards helping people and not for things like admin costs.

Ms Labka said the walk was also a chance to tell people about SAHSSI.

“What was wonderful too was that if anybody encounters domestic violence, maybe not to them, but to a neighbour a friend or a relative they can say to someone - ‘get in touch with SAHSSI they will be able to help you’,” Ms Labka said.

“Domestic violence, women's homelessness drug and alcohol and mental health are not happy subjects but turning it into a community support event to help people get out of where they are at was beautiful.”

Group helps many people

SAHSSI gets funding to help 268 women a year and they exceed this by 20 to 30 per cent and so it's more like 400 women.

In their core business, they help 70 women at a time, along with the 24 hours domestic violence service which can accommodate eight women and children.

The funding they get from the State Government goes towards case managers, staffing costs and a small amount is used to purchase items they might need.

“There is no fat on the lamb,” she said.

About 90 per cent of the women we support are on a pension and so they are living on or below the poverty line.

Lesley Labka

“What we don’t have funding for is all the extra stuff.”

They help children get to out of school activities (sports or school excursions), they help women with educational training, pay health gaps, they help people set up a home by buying a fridge, washing machine, bed linen and more.

Donated food is used to feed families when they arrive at SAHSSI’s doorstep at 10pm at on a Saturday night, for example.

Plans for more accommodation 

The group also wants to make more accommodation available in the Shoalhaven.

“We are really passionate about increasing housing options,” Ms Labka said.

They are a busy service and the refuge is never empty.

People can stay at the refuge for three months which can lead to longer stays when needed.

The SAHSSI team often sees trauma and they don't just help people in domestic violence situations but on all sorts of recovery journeys.

The SAHSSI team also need to look after themselves.

“People who work in this in this sector have to take very good care of themselves and take care of each other and themselves because it can lead to vicarious trauma,” Ms Labka said.

“I hope most of the community does not know what it (trauma like domestic violence) is like.”

What she wants people to appreciate is we all don’t start from the same event starting lines.

“Some of us are already handicapped before we start the race,” she said.

Ms Labka added people need to understand the decision around leaving a violent relationship is also complex.

“You are not just connected to someone with your head - you are also connected with your heart,” she said.