“I was terrified of my dad. He bashed us and choked my mum. You never knew when he would lose control and take it out on all of us. I was scared all the time.”
“I was 12 when he kicked me out. Sometimes I’d camp in a tent or sleep on a park bench. But it was really hard in winter to find anywhere warm enough. I struggled to sleep when it was so cold.” *Peter, 16
For Peter, homelessness was born from a life of unimaginable violence and suffering:
“My dad got drunk all the time and would just fly into fits of rage. One time my youngest brother spilled a drink on the carpet. Dad knocked him to the ground and kicked him in the head. We tried to be as quiet as possible and stay in our bedrooms so we wouldn’t upset him. But even then he would burst into our rooms and smash everything – our toys and school sports trophies – and then leave without saying a word.”
In the grip of winter, when the refuges are full, Peter was forced to sleep on the streets in the freezing cold. He was scared and he was angry, and he masked his pain through drink and drugs.
Two years after being forced from home, Peter dropped out of school. He was too busy trying to find his next meal or somewhere to sleep that night to worry about school. But the further he sank into homelessness, the greater his addiction became – and with it, his anger.
“I was either drunk or high most of the time and I had no control over myself or my actions. I’d punch people – sometimes for no reason. I held a knife to some woman’s throat once. I’m so ashamed because I remember that’s how my dad was with mum. I don’t even remember how I got the knife or why I was so freaked out.”
Eventually, Peter was caught dealing drugs and ended up in the juvenile justice system. Peter’s sister appealed his sentence.
“She had gone through the same stuff growing up – drugs, expelled from school, kicked out of home. But she got help and was doing really well. She told the judge she was a good example of how someone can turn their life around if someone gives you a chance.”
Sadly, Peter’s chance was taken away when he died from a drug overdose at just 16.
*Benjamin is living proof that with our programs – and your ongoing support – lives can transform for the better.
At 15, Benjamin was homeless, addicted to heroin and a veteran of juvenile detention. It wasn’t a life he wanted. More than anything he wanted to break the devastating cycle of abuse that had plagued his entire childhood. And do you know what? With a little help, he achieved all that and so much more.
He started at Dunlea, our drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, and soon after began studying youth work.
“Kicking my drug habit was hard and I had my ups and downs. But the belief that Youth Off The Streets workers showed me was truly inspiring. For the first time, I felt worthy and valued. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of young people, just like they did.”
When Benjamin became homeless once again, he thought about giving up. After all, how could he focus at TAFE when he was constantly worried about where he was going to sleep?
But for us, giving up wasn’t an option. It never is.
With a little help from our scholarship program, he completed a Certificate IV in Youth Work and a Diploma in Community Services. That was nine years ago. Since then, Benjamin has completed a Bachelor of Social Science and a Masters of Social Work.
“I jumped at the chance for a student placement at Youth Off The Streets. It was so rewarding to be able to come full circle and support young people like I had been supported all those years ago. I feel I am able to make a difference.”
“Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to succeed in my studies and employment. I don’t know where I would be without you.”
Both of these young men suffered the same harrowing childhood but their lives took different paths. This is why it’s crucial we reach vulnerable young people early.
Our programs are designed to do just that. Together we can meet the urgent needs of homeless young people like Peter ad Benjamin, before it’s too late.