Bec* was 14 years old when a Youth Off The Streets worker helped her find a bed at a crisis refuge. She had been homeless for two years, couch surfing and living in parks.
“I hated authority,” she says. “I never thought to go to a refuge. I thought I had more control over who hurt me if I was free.”
She found ways to look like a normal teenager. She would shower at local swimming pools and steal clothes when she needed something clean to wear.
When she arrived at the refuge, she didn’t look like a typical homeless ‘street kid’.
“I copped a lot of resentment from other kids,” she recalls. “But Min – the manager and mum all the kids wished they had – helped me through my struggles.”
While Bec felt like she was improving at the refuge, she had no one but Youth Off The Streets staff to encourage her.
“The other kids still had families,” she recalls. “We had a family day, and many of their parents came to visit. They would encourage them to get better. I snapped. I made a big scene and ran away only to be homeless again. I felt hurt that they had families, and I had no one.”
Min and another youth worker, Bernie, found her and told her that they were going to help her achieve whatever she wanted to achieve.
Bec wanted to support herself financially while continuing her high school studies, and with the help of Father Riley she was given a part-time job. Just before her Year 10 graduation, she moved into her own accommodation.
“I am forever thankful for that first job,” she says. “It taught me that when you apply yourself in difficult situations, the outcome will always be better than where you first stood.”
Though she was grateful to be living independently, Bec was still yearning for a sense of family. She entered an abusive relationship.
It can be difficult for homeless young people to transition from out-of-home care to independent living. Youth Off The Streets runs an Aftercare program to keep in touch with young people who have left its services but still need some guidance and support.
“I couldn’t get the hang of healthy relationships,” Bec reflects. “I spent the next seven years experiencing abuse in a violent relationship. I think almost every bone in my body has been broken.”
Despite the circumstances, Bec never lost contact with the Youth Off The Streets team. She says that what kept her going was the endless love from Father Riley, Min, Bernie and Kylie Sharp in the Aftercare program.
“I struggled for a few more years but attended every Youth Off The Streets reunion,” she explains. “I did my best to hide the abuse because I didn’t want to show them that I was failing.
“But at one reunion Father said to me, ‘You’re stronger for asking for help’. He told me he was proud of me, as did the other leaders.”
Bec tried to leave the violent relationship she was in. It ended in the fight for her life.
“After the broken bones healed and the two-year court case was finished, I was free from abuse,” she says. “Min called me regularly, supported me emotionally, and I attended events with Youth Off The Streets for inspiration and to meet the younger generation of kids.”
She found a job she enjoyed and her life transformed. She also met her husband.
“I’ve been married for eight years,” she beams. “And I still attend the Youth Off The Streets reunions every year.”
Bec has five children who are thriving: her eldest daughter, Jess*, received the Medal of the Order of Australia and the Pride of Australia Medal for her work with abused children and is in her second year of studies at the police academy.
Another daughter, Alexandra*, raised thousands of dollars for Youth Off The Streets and won the Miss Diamond Australia pageant.
Bec is now in the process of building a new house for her family.
“I’m happy to say the chains of abuse have been cut, thanks to the amazing support I’ve received from Youth Off The Streets for the past 26 years.”
*Names and images changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.
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