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Shalom House wins Building Communities Award at Telstra Best of Business event

20 April 2022 at 5:34 pm
Jonathan Alley
A privately run rehabilitation facility in Western Australia with unusual beginnings has won recognition for its self sufficient map to success.

Jonathan Alley | 20 April 2022 at 5:34 pm


Shalom House wins Building Communities Award at Telstra Best of Business event
20 April 2022 at 5:34 pm

A privately run rehabilitation facility in Western Australia with unusual beginnings has won recognition for its self sufficient map to success.

Shalom House, a privately owned and run Western Australian rehabilitation facility established by Peter Lyndon-James in 2012, has won the 2022 Building Communities Award at the inaugural Telstra Best of Business Awards.

The 24-hour residential rehabilitation centre was recognised for “truly building and supporting the community it works with”, and the organisation’s wrap-around, holistic approach that aims to restore and reintegrate its residents.

It is welcome validation for Lyndon-James, a former prison inmate who mortgaged his house to launch the initiative. 

The key part of Shalom House’s work is addressing the individual needs of its residents, and it can be a complex and sometimes harrowing process.

“Sometimes the past is just too big to resolve all at once,” Lyndon-James tells Pro Bono News. 

“We take it apart, break it down, and work through each issue. If you have those hooks stuck in your back, you can’t walk forward. We take it apart and resolve it, look at every part of it, childhood, housing, work, the whole history of someone.”

It’s a process with which Lyndon-James is inherently familiar: he did it himself.

After experiencing family breakdown, the nine-year old Lyndon-James found himself a ward of the state, starting a consistent pattern of incarceration that would ultimately last 26 years.

“I was in the youth prison system,” he says. “In there, I learned how to steal. And then I spent seven years in Longmore Detention Centre from the age of 16, and I spent two years in another boy’s prison. So, my whole childhood was in prison. 

“I went through the whole WA prison system: eventually I was selling up to $40,000 of methamphetamines a day, and selling a lot of guns.”

Lyndon-James eventually embraced Christianity, studying theology for three years and becoming a volunteer chaplain at Acacia prison.

For him, he says, it all goes back to childhood. 

“I would have given anything to be able to run up the hall and jump in bed with mum and dad for a cuddle. But I never had that,” he says. “I never had family holidays. I did nine birthdays locked up as a child.”

But, true to Shalom’s philosophy, he took ownership of his issues and never looked back.

“We all face difficult circumstances – everybody, all of us. But when you react to those circumstances, you’re making a decision. Everyone has to own their decisions, take responsibility,” he says. 

The learning and counselling structures put in place by Lyndon-James employ the skills of an array of community members who work as staff and volunteers – medical practitioners, chaplains, psychologists and tradespeople – because it takes people of different strengths and capabilities to assist residents in different ways. 

Shalom House – which started with one house – now houses 150 residents across 16 properties in Western Australia, with a 50/50 gender mix. The program requires all graduates to leave the program debt free, in full-time employment and with a driver’s licence, and these goals  were recognised as key elements making the program adaptable to other Australian states or even other countries by the award judges. 

Shalom House does not receive any form of government funding. It runs solely from its own resources: residents are allowed to pay partial upfront fees to meet costs, with the remainder paid back to Shalom over the course of the resident’s 12-month stay as they find regular employment. The longer residents remain in the program, the greater opportunity they have to gain employment. For example, a resident in the third stage of the program – between six to 10 months depending on individual cases – can work up to three days per week to pay for their stay and meet other program costs. Shalom runs a paving and fencing businesses, does limestone removals, a café, and a second-hand shop. It also runs a labour hire company that works directly in partnership with external employers who give residents employment opportunities.

Lyndon-James says the approach is centred on getting residents to reflect on their own decision-making. Each person gets their own individually planned and prepared program, that can evolve with their own changing needs. 

“We have 150 programs, because we’re dealing with 150 individuals at any one time,” he says.  

According to Lyndon-James this is a fundamental reason he created his permanent stay holistic rehabilitation program. 

“The problem is all the organisations that we have out there, they’re not all on the same page. You can go to one organisation – and everything they do is really good. But, when they hand over to the next person there’s no communication, and how the next person does it is different from the other person,” he says. 

While Shalom House has a substance addiction-treatment focus, the service works with its individual residents to restore family relationships, address anger issues, or other addictive behaviours outside the alcohol and drug spectrum. 

“Shalom House is about helping people with addiction issues – and the other issues we also treat­ – into a place where they make good decisions for themselves, and good decisions affecting those around them,” Lyndon-James says.    

See other other Telstra Best of Business Award winners here 

Jonathan Alley  |  @ProBonoNews

Jonathan Alley is opinion editor at Pro Bono Australia.

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