Suruchi Bhatia is one of the first voices clients hear when they reach out to the Adelaide North West Homelessness Alliance for support.

With compassion and understanding, Suruchi, an Intake Worker and Case Manager, provides people of all ages with on-the-spot referrals, advice, and most importantly, hope.

On a busy day, Suruchi Bhatia can answer up to 20 calls for help from people in crisis.

Their desperation is palpable as they recount the circumstances that have led them here.

In Suruchi, an Intake Worker and Case Manager at Centacare, they are seeking solutions for homelessness – and a reason to hope.

“We are the first point of contact for the clients when they initially phone the service to discuss their situation,’’ Suruchi said.

“We listen to their story so that we can explore options and provide them with the right support or refer them to the services that can best meet their needs.

“It’s important to put yourself in their shoes and show some empathy. I always try and make them feel safe, so they are comfortable discussing their situation and know we are here to support them.’’

Suruchi works alongside the Outer North Youth Homelessness Service to find solutions for people in crisis.

While every story is different, resilience and courage are common threads across age groups.

“When I listen to young people, I think of what I was doing at 18 or 19, but here they are, facing incredible challenges in life, yet they are still taking responsibility for the tasks we give them to try and get out of the sector,’’ Suruchi said.

“Some of them are young mums and I feel so proud of them.

“At the other end are the older generations, the clients who are 80-plus. When they call and say they are homeless, it touches my heart.

“Often they are just coming to us for advice, with the hope we can provide them with some guidance and support.”

In 2021-22, 272,700 people were supported by homelessness services across Australia (AIHW, Specialist Homelessness Services Annual Report 2021-22).

A further 105,000 people sought help but were unable to be assisted because of shortages of staff, accommodation, or other services (AIHW 2022).

Suruchi, who is based at The Centa, in Elizabeth Park, said nearly 40 per cent of people currently seeking homelessness services through the Alliance cite issues with housing or finances, such as the affordability of rent, as the main reasons they need help.

“Some clients might have a few weeks before their lease is up. For others, it’s today or tonight; tomorrow they’ll have nowhere to go,’’ she said.

Suruchi adds that finding exit options is becoming increasingly difficult with the rental crisis compounded by a lack of affordable housing, the rising cost of living, and over-stretched support services.

“Over the past 10 months, I have cried two or three times after sitting with a client and listening to their story,” she said.

“Sometimes I feel helpless. As workers, we question ourselves: are we doing our jobs properly? But we can only do our best with the resources we have.

“Often it’s the little things that make me feel proud. I get nice emails from the clients saying thank you so much, or bless, with smiley faces and all.

“It makes my day knowing that somewhere along the way, I helped them.’’

Suruchi said working in the sector has taught her the true meaning of resilience.

“I can only imagine what clients are going through, but they are still working towards their goals. That is something I acknowledge every day,” she said.

“They teach us that whatever happens, you need to keep trying, to keep moving on.”

*Homelessness Week (August 7-13) aims to raise awareness of the causes and impacts of homelessness via national and local events and campaigns. This includes providing information on the
importance of housing as a solution and educating communities on how they can make a