While I was in an assistant prison chaplain said to me “Stan, I want you to give some thought to what would be needed when men are coming out of jail, like a half-way house. I have a couple of barrister friends who have noticed firsthand the lack of support of anyone after release.” This was late 1982.
So, I set to work and thought hard, and I decided to make an exercise of it. I wrote out everything that someone may need, a site for the house, food, clothing and access to resources generally.
The first house
The concept of the first house in Napier St, Fitzroy, house, a double story terrace was to provide accommodation upstairs, and downstairs, a base for the production of the Epistle Magazine and a ‘drop-in’ facility for newly released men and women, who were in crisis, needed support or advocacy regarding dealing with government departments, agencies, or Court matters and appearances.
From that time people just kept coming in, and I had an unpaid but qualified social worker as a helper. At one point it was so crowded, I had partitions erected to divide my bedroom into sleeping quarters for 3 people! When the house was full, we used to accommodate guys in boarding houses across inner Melbourne.
The more men we took in, the more support we seemed to get from different people and agencies. Eventually we were able to purchase the house.
We never had the money when the time came to pay the rent, but we always got it somehow in the nick of time, often given as a surprise gift, and sometimes to the cent, it felt as if we had divine protection!
We realised we needed to get a committee of management established, so it was a case getting hold of strategic people. Someone suggested we get Judge Alastair Nicholson, who was then head of the Parole Board. He committed and was our chairman until his retirement in 2010.
From our early days, ACSO has grown more than I could imagine. I think I would have done better if I had paced myself but if I had stopped and thought about it wouldn’t have been spontaneous and evolved the way that it did.
ACSO Founder Stan McCormack passed away peacefully at home in April 2021.