Kris Halliday is the kind of guy who lives his life for others. Whether he’s giving out hot meals on the street, chatting with someone whose preparing to sleep it rough, or working with the Coalition for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees (CARAD) when he sees need, his automatic response is to help out where he can.
As a Salvation Army officer at the Perth Fortress Corps in inner city Northbridge, Kris works with some of the city’s most vulnerable people out of an intense understanding that this is where God wants him to be. He knew from a young age that he was called to be an officer with the Salvos.
Growing up in a loving non-Christian family, Kris began attending a youth group organised by the church and was drawn to its values, soon becoming a committed member. As a young adult in the 1990s, he approached the organisation about entering training for ordination, but was told that there was no place for him as an officer, as an openly gay man.
“That was devastating for me. That broke me,” Kris said. “While things were tough at school, three things kept me going; a loving family, a welcoming faith community at the local Salvos and knowing that I had my one calling in life – which was to be a Salvation Army Officer.
“When that was taken from me because of something I had no control over, nothing in my life made sense any more. So I really hit the wall and found myself experimenting with drugs and drinking and a whole lot of stuff I wouldn’t normally have done because there was no reason not to, and I just had no hope.”
Over a number of years, and after trying a range of different careers, Kris eventually felt God calling him back to the Salvation Army. He began volunteering at a drop-in centre in Melbourne and later found employment with the church, before finally receiving an apology for the way he was treated, and being accepted to enter the training process to become an officer.
“Times have changed dramatically and there is a general acceptance,” he said.
While the church is slowly moving towards inclusion of homosexual people, Kris believes there is still work to be done to be considered fully inclusive. Despite this, there is no discrimination based around sexuality in the services that the Salvation Army provides.
“I pray regularly that there aren’t people who avoid coming to us in a time of need because they feel that we would judge them or discriminate against them, because nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “The Salvation Army does not discriminate in terms of its service provision or employment.”
Now in his first commissioned (ordained) placement, Kris’ role includes co-ordination of the Doorways Perth Community Programs, providing a holistic approach to helping homeless and at-risk people find pathways to get off the streets, through a range of services.
“We’ve moved right away from the welfare mentality to the personcentred- empowerment model of service,” he said. “Gone are the days where we used to give a $20 voucher and a random bag of food to every person. Now, every interaction we have is completely unique and is based on the person’s needs.”
Like many people in ministry, Kris’ calling extends to every part of his life. He has recently opened up his home as a foster parent, in the hope he can support kids as they go through rough times. With the help of two housemates, Kris is currently supporting and nurturing a six-yearold child who is working towards being reunited with family.
“Foster care is something I’m very passionate about because a lot of what we do is about putting out fires in people who were let down when they were young,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that if I was going to spend so much time working with people in the middle of their life, I wanted to be doing something meaningful at the beginning of the process.”
In his spare time, Kris also chairs the Coalition for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees (CARAD). CARAD, a notfor- profit ecumenical organisation supported by the Uniting Church in WA, provides emergency relief, homework support and advocacy for refugees, as well as regularly making visits to detention centres.
“What I liked about CARAD is that they were well structured and were providing incredible grassroots work with a huge number of people on a limited number of resources,” he said. “So I joined the committee and I’m really honoured to be able to be the chairperson at the moment. Although, public policy is making it a tough time to be in that space.”
As someone who is constantly challenging himself to live out God’s call on his life, Kris is completely grounded in what he does, while praying for the day this particular ministry is obsolete.
“I’m driven by the individual stories of the people I meet, but that drives me to want to change the systems and structures that are keeping those people in poverty,” he said. “I don’t want to just be giving out blankets for the rest of my life. I want to get to the point where people don’t need them.”
Top image: Kris (left) takes to the streets regularly to connect with vulnerable people in need.