After eight years with Youth Off The Streets – including roles as the Director of Sydney Homeless Services and Deputy CEO – Lex Nadine Lutherborrow was appointed by Father Riley and the Youth Off The Streets Board as CEO in 2020.
Here Lex talks about what drew her to Youth Off The Streets, the challenges of COVID-19, and plans for the organisation’s future.
What motivated you to join Youth Off The Streets back in 2012?
I’m a youth worker and case manager by training. By 2012 I’d spent over a decade working for the Department of Juvenile Justice and almost two years as Program Manager for Nepean Youth Accommodation Service, among other roles in the sector.
Having spent so much time working with at-risk young people, I was well aware of Father Riley and the work he was doing with Youth Off The Streets. In fact, I had a huge amount of respect and admiration for his grassroots approach and the impact he was making on the lives of young people.
When Don Bosco House – our refuge in Marrickville – was looking for a new Program Manager, I jumped at the chance to join Youth Off The Streets. It was a great decision, as I’ve been fortunate to work with many passionate colleagues and incredible young people since then.
You became CEO at a time when COVID-19 was creating huge challenges. What did 2020 teach you about the organisation?
I learned just how resourceful, resilient and adaptable we are – both our organisation and the young people we work with. The impact of COVID on our frontline services has been immense, and we’ve had to make a number of changes to deal with our new reality.
At the same time, it was inspiring to see everyone pull together to ensure we kept doing what we do best: supporting homeless and disadvantaged young people. To give just one example, our independent schools had to adapt very quickly to online learning. Our initial concerns about whether young people would participate were soon allayed, and the remote learning style even saw attendances go up in some instances.
What are you most enjoying about being CEO?
It’s a privilege to be able to carry on Father’s vision and work in this role. I’m also enjoying having a view of the whole organisation, which also means I get to see all the ways we’re making a difference to young people – thanks in large part to our partners and supporters.
What are Youth Off The Streets’ priorities this year?
We’ll continue to assist young people dealing with the ongoing impacts of COVID in an informed, supportive and confident way. Ultimately, our goal is to equip them to face whatever the future might throw at them.
We’ll also be focussed on renewing government contracts for some of our homelessness services, continuing our discussions with the NSW State Government about the need for more youth unemployment programs, and trialling Street Walk in Melbourne – among several other exciting new initiatives.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
Like Father, I’m a dog lover. I have two dogs and although they’re a fraction of the size of Father’s Great Danes, they do like to take me on long walks around the neighbourhood.
I also like to ride my Harley and have been part of a number of charity rides over the years, including Hogs For The Homeless, which is supported by the NRL and raises awareness and funds for Youth Off The Streets.