At just 12 years old, Amy became one of thousands of young people in Australia with no place to call home.
At first she stayed on friends’ couches until she wore out her welcome and had to move on.
Next came temporary stays in rooming houses and even living in a car. Then the streets.
Growing up in the care of the department of human services, Amy didn’t have a normal childhood.
She craved the things anybody would consider normal: a safe bedroom of her own, a job to go to each day, a normal routine, and her own possessions.
After stints in various refuges, she finally found the right fit at The Salvation Army.
At the Salvos Amy could have a secure room, community with other residents and counselling from Salvo workers. Together they talked about her different options and even gave her money to participate in a local recreational exercise class.
Most importantly, the Salvos helped Amy get a rental place of her own.
“Andrea my caseworker is going with me to look at the place and she’s going to help me get a bed, a doona cover, all the normal stuff. I can’t wait.”
“They’ve helped me out a lot in different aspects of my life. Thank God for the Salvos…they’re a good bunch.”
With the help of her caseworker, Amy she can now focus on other areas of her life like finding work.
“I’ll definitely stay in contact with this place – it’s a really good support. They care you know.”
When Sam came to a Salvation Army youth crisis centre, he’d been without a bed for months.
But for Sam, that wasn’t the hardest part.
“I had ongoing, undiagnosed mental health issues and had moved interstate to escape the regular beatings I had received from my alcoholic father since I was 10.”
Sam was anxious, depressed and angry. When he came to the Salvos, he found it hard to settle in, struggling with the routine and structure.
“But I also had goals that I wanted to achieve. Number one on my list – finding out what was wrong with my head, then get a job in hospitality and move into my own place.”
“I found support through regular counselling sessions, felt confident enough to submit my resume to a couple of local cafes.”
Within a few weeks, Sam was hired as a barista and today feels positive about his future for the first time.
At four years old, Lucy was placed in foster care.
Her mother had long suffered from addictions to alcohol and drugs. Lucy’s birth had only made the problem worse.
At ten years old, Lucy was sent back to live with her mother.
What should have been a happy time, turned into the most traumatic time of Lucy’s life when she became the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of her mother’s new partner.
At twelve years old, Lucy decided it was safer to live on the streets than in her own home.
She was eventually placed back into foster care but was never able to address the trauma she’d experienced. Lucy often skipped school, started to self-harm and fell into the wrong crowd until her foster parents couldn’t handle her anymore.
At sixteen years old, Lucy arrived at a Salvation Army youth refuge, completely broken and lacking any self-worth.
Slowly Lucy began to feel safe for the first time. Through the guidance and encouragement of staff she addressed her self-harming and self-esteem issues, attended school more regularly, started to earn her own money and was supported to set achievable goals for the future.
Just before her eighteenth birthday, Lucy graduated year twelve and enrolled at TAFE. She obtained her own unit and that year she transitioned out of the Salvo refuge.
Lucy has since been back to visit the refuge and often shares her experiences with current residents.
At 8-years-old, Aaron arrived home to find his house empty—his mother was gone, and she’d taken everything with her.
‘It’s abandonment. She just left’,’ he says. ‘ My 14-year-old brother and I—we had to start selling drugs just to provide our food. What else can you really do? I thought “Where am I? What have I got to look forward to?”
Aaron remembers being shifted back and forth between children’s homes and foster families, accumulating scars and mistrust along the way. On one horrifying occasion, a vicious attack by his foster father left Aaron hospitalised.
‘Something was taken from me in that flogging. Honestly, it was,’ he says.
He decided he was safer on the streets.
Sleeping in a shallow hole in the side of a CBD building, Aaron turned to drugs to numb the pain of his harsh homeless existence.
‘I had my first dose of heroin at age 14. It helped me shut off all my feelings, all my thoughts. I was just numb to everything.’
During seven years of sleeping rough and drug addiction, Aaron came into contact with The Salvation Army. With the continued help of Salvo staff, Aaron was guided through a rehabilitation program. He then successfully applied to enter supported accommodation—his first apartment.
‘I’m really proud to be here,’ he says.’ I’ve been doing really well. So yeah, this is home.’