The Salvation Army First Floor Program has been assisting families in the Illawarra for over 20 years. Now, our programs and model of Family Empowerment are offered at various locations in NSW, QLD and the ACT. Our Vision, Mission and Values, developed over our 20 year history, underpin all of our work, wherever it occurs.
A village in practise, empowering families
A holistic, community-based Drug & Alcohol Service supporting and empowering families and individuals in their recovery from substance abuse, mental health issues, grief and loss.
In all that we do, in every encounter with families, services and the community, we endeavour to embody these values in our work:
Investment (paying it forward)
Partnerships (networking/connection with other services)
The Salvation Army First Floor Program was opened in 1996 as a hospitality education and training site as part of the New Work Opportunity Program. Funded by the Department of Education, Employment and Training, the project aimed to retrain a group of 42 long term unemployed people in hospitality.
This saw Banjos Bistro and the Outside Inn Function Centre opened in an old nightclub building in Wollongong.
Quickly, program manager Jayne Wilson (pictured) realised that there were a complex number of factors that were associated with unemployment – substance use, mental health issues, experiences of grief, loss and trauma, criminal history and social isolation to name a few – which meant individuals attending the program required additional services and support.
To help address these needs, she established a counselling and support service alongside the bistro.
But what to call it?
The name “First Floor” was chosen at the suggestion of the participants themselves as they felt this was their first step towards a new life and the first place they would go for help.
The First Floor Restoration and Support Program was born.
As a result of having a loved one in the program, and seeing them make meaningful changes in their lives, the families of these participants also began accessing the program and Jayne realised that these families had a number of unmet needs and were also socially isolated.
The first family support group – Very Important Families – was established in 1998 when Jayne met with three families over coffee to share common experiences and difficulties.
Over the next 20 years, the family support offered by the First Floor Program has grown to include support groups and programs for grandparents and kinship carers, children impacted by parental substance use and/or mental health issues, families with a loved one in goal or on parole and families impacted by suicide and bereavement.
The program also provides counselling to individuals and families as well as advocacy, information and referral.
In all of our support groups we focus on people’s lived experiences and on learning from the people we work with how to best help them to live safe and empowered lives.
Since 2012, the FFP have also been training and equipping other Salvation Army Services and Corps groups, in both Australia and internationally, in working with families and the process of family empowerment.
Jayne’s vision focused on “Doing Life” with people, meeting them in their time of need and journeying alongside them towards empowerment. She felt it was essential that people could share the experience of empowerment with others in a reciprocal way, allowing them to develop a web of relationships which she would call a “Village” of support.
“I was driving around the city and i’m looking at the street corners and i’m thinking; “Wow!” Every hotel is open, there’s music playing, there are people laughing, and conversation and there is community being lived”. And you go around the corner and the churches are in darkness and the doors are shut.
My heart just ached. We have to provide an alternative”