The Shopfront: safe place for those in need

21 Dec 2020

By Theresia Titus

By Theresia Titus

A Western Australian living on the gross national minimum wage in 2018 would have to survive on $719.20 weekly.

With rising living cost and housing prices, the amount was certainly inadequate, which would increase the poverty rate and hence homelessness in the State.

On 2016 census night, there was an estimated 9,0005 homeless persons sleeping rough, couch surfing or relying on supported accommodation that could be overcrowded.

The Shopfront is the Archdiocesan agency fully committed to fighting homelessness and helping those in need.

Nathalia da Costa Coitinho Ramiro (second to the right) shared her work placement experience with The Shopfront. Photo: Ron Tan.
Nathalia da Costa Coitinho Ramiro (second to the right) shared her work placement experience with The Shopfront. Photo: Ron Tan.

“The Shopfront showed me the real meaning of compassion,” Mrs Nathalia da Costa Coitinho Ramiro said in an interview with The Record.

“Working for unknown individuals to bring them some relief and happiness, regardless of their background or choices, to make them feel that they are worthy and cared for by others is very rewarding.”

Originated from Brazil, Mrs Ramiro came to Australia five years ago and is currently a postgraduate student at the University of Western Australia in pursue of Master for Social Work degree.

Back home, she grew up Catholic, surrounded with strong Church principles such as inclusion, compassion, solidarity and Empathy. She graduated with a Law degree in 2011 and attained a qualification in Penal and Criminal Law.

“The reason I chose Australia for my postgraduate studies is that I always believed that I could do more to enhance an individual’s well-being,” Mrs Ramiro expressed.

“I’m fortunate because I grew up in a loving environment and have always been encouraged to pursue my dreams, and I genuinely believe this can make a difference in the lives of others.

The Shopfront moved to its new premises in Bentley from Maylands in September. Photo: Max Hoh.

“I’m passionate about empowering individuals and showing them that everyone is worthy and has some talent and values. As a Lawyer, I always advocated for equality and inclusion,” she added.

It was through her studies that she was able to do her work placement with The Shopfront for three months, from the middle of August to November this year.

“I had a fantastic experience out there, which contributed enormously to my personal and professional development,” she said.

“The opportunity to work with such generous workers and volunteers, who willingly give their time and care to those vulnerable people, who are struggling financially, emotionally, and physically, accomplish the purpose of God in our lives.”

Daily, the Agency receives and accommodates different people with different needs, which include accommodation, food hampers and mental health support.

However, Mrs Ramiro said, many people come to the Agency merely to find a safe place to be and genuine conversations, without judgement or prejudice put against them and their situations.

“Homelessness is a global issue which has significant consequences and caused predominantly by domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction, unemployment, and mental health issues. Homeless individuals are also more inclined to suffer from depression, anxiety, loneliness, as well as physical abuse issues,” Mrs Ramiro explained.

“This social issue affects not only the individuals who are suffering from homelessness but the whole society. Thus [I believe], housing is a basic need and should be provided.

“My role, together with the other volunteers, consisted of providing our visitors with a safe place to be, where they would feel included and worthy,” she continued.

“Therefore, I believe that the emotional support we provided them was what stood out most for me, and it was clear for us how this was beneficial to them. The way they felt after a brief conversation in which we demonstrated that we cared about them, and we wanted to interact and listen to their stories was enriching.”

Mrs Ramiro also oriented the visitors to the right agencies within the Archdiocese of Perth, that can offer specific services that The Shopfront could not provide.

The Agency moved to its new premises in Bentley after being at Maylands since its beginning 20 years ago.

“I do hope The Shopfront keeps running and helping individuals for such a long time. There are so many lovely volunteers there, in addition to Damian Walsh (The Shopfront Director) and Rosemary, who have so much knowledge, compassion, and care to share, and can contribute tremendously to people’s well-being,” Mrs Ramiro shared.

“I am so happy and proud for having the opportunity to spend three months of my placement in a place where social work is valued, sharing knowledge and experience with such incredible people.”