Posted by Ian FAIRNIE on May 17, 2020
*Pat has significant experience across the community and government sectors, including Chairing the State and Federal Australian Dental Associations and is a former member of the State Dentists’ Registration Board. In 2001, he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his contribution to the Australian Community. 
St Patrick’s Community Support Centre lies at the heart of the Fremantle community.  It started in 1972, when a frail elderly man appeared at the door of the Presbytery seeking help. He was cold, hungry and in serious need of care. 

Brother Ignatius Hannick, with the support of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (the Order which has charge for the Parish) quickly set about establishing a soup kitchen to address the growing need for help amongst many in the community. Shortly afterwards, with donations of food and support from volunteers – the first meals service commenced in the original school (now the Parish Hall). It was in this spirit that St Patrick’s Community Support Centre was born. 

The local business community embraced the Centre from day one, with some continuing their support to this day without interruption. Following receipt of generous funding from Lotterywest in 1980, the Basilica’s original school was upgraded to accommodate the expanding services which included a more complete meal service, hygiene facilities, library and recreation area; heralding the transition from a soup kitchen to St Patrick’s Community Support Centre. 

Continued support of funding from government, local business and the wider community has enabled the growth and innovation of St Patrick’s to become a fully integrated service provider and industry-leader which today employs around 30 dedicated staff and a dedicated team of more than 140 volunteers. 

Brother Ignatius’s dream had not only been realized but has expanded to support an entire community for more than four decades.  Unfortunately funding cuts have resulted in the food service being reduced to 4 days per week, and the demise of the Street Doctor (consequent to the downgrading of Fremantle Hospital) has meant that health issues are not being managed properly. 

The COVID 19 pandemic is having a serious impact on vulnerable people in our community who are socially isolated and have limited access to income and food. 

Meanwhile local restaurants are struggling to maintain their business in light of government restrictions. 

Doorstep Dinners 

St Patrick's Community Support Centre in Fremantle is currently working with community services, businesses and volunteers to support those must vulnerable and impacted by COVID-19. 

The Centre is currently providing 200 meals each day for 90 days to people who are vulnerable in our community.  In doing this they are helping people feel connected and supported through this pandemic. 

They are also supporting local restaurants to continue to generate income and remain in business. 

Housing and Accommodation 

In the second half of 2018, St Patrick’s Community Support Centre embarked on a series of community conversations. 

The purpose of the conversations was to begin a whole-of-community approach to improving housing and ending homelessness in south-west metropolitan Perth. 

The result was Imagined Housing, which builds on the work of the WA Alliance to End Homelessness, within the context of the State Government’s intention to deliver a State Homelessness Strategy in 2019, and a State Affordable Housing Strategy in 2020. 

Imagined Housing exists to bring together government and not-for-profit agencies, businesses and individuals in the south-west metro region who are interested in tackling housing and homelessness issues affecting them and their neighbours. 

St. Pat’s offers a range of accommodation for families, adults and young people.  These range from individual dwellings to lodging house accommodation and are either short-term, medium-term or long-term. 

They have a range of single room lodging houses with shared facilities, as well as supported case managed accommodation for men and women  that need extra assistance to maintain their housing, get back on track and prepare for  longer term, stable accommodation.    

Hannick House is a 12 week crisis accommodation program for single homeless men over the age of 18 years that operates on-site at St. Pat’s Community Support Centre.  The program is for men who are having difficulty maintaining accommodation or accessing housing and need a bit of extra support to get their lives back on track.  

Helen’s House provides transitional and supported accommodation for women for up to 12 months.   This program replaced the crisis accommodation for women previously offered by Sisters’ Place. 

Youth Place is able to assist young people who are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless and have barriers that prevent them from participating in the community. 

Another program offers transitional housing (up to 12 months) to young people between the ages of 15 and 25 years including young people that are single or a couple, young mums or dads and young families. 

Starlight Hotel Choir 

One of the most popular and talked about programs at St Pat’s is The Starlight Hotel Choir.  Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, choir rehearsals have been suspended, but the choir will be running again as soon as the pandemic restrictions are lifted. 

Evolving from the weekly singing, songwriting and jam sessions at St Patrick’s with highly respected local musicians Peter Anthony and WAMI award-winning musician and song-writer Dave Johnson, the Choir is now sought-after to perform at festivals and events state-wide. 

Community-based and open to anyone regardless of musical talent, the Choir members consist of both those who utilise St Patrick’s services and members of the wider community.   It is the energy, connectivity and engaging nature of the choir that captures the hearts of all who are fortunate to hear their voices or to be a part of its magic. 

Musical ability has never been a pre-requisite to join the Choir – although it has unearthed some extraordinary musical talent. The main goal has been to provide a non-threatening environment where members can express their thoughts and voices, feeling comfortable to join in when they choose. 

Many of the choir members have experienced homelessness, hardship and mental health issues at some stage in their lives and find that the choir is a safe place for self-expression and assists in lifting their spirits and creating a sense of belonging and self-worth. 

The Choir’s main goal is to create a fun, non-threatening environment for people to express themselves, feel a part of a team and have a great time singing the songs they love! 

Named after the ‘Hotel of Stars’ under which many homeless people sleep, the Choir has expanded from its simple jamming sessions in 2007, to become a professional and dedicated choir consisting of up to 30 members. 

For the past couple of years, a large contingent of disabled people with their carers, have been regulars at rehearsals and sometimes at public performances – bringing an inspiring new dimension to the Choir’s composition.   

Sub-sets of the Choir also perform regularly at Seniors Home and Community groups – bringing joy wherever they go. 

Listen to the Choir here: