25 Jun 2020

No lingering regrets in surge towards success

Youth support
Laurence* spent nine long months of his 17th year homeless, often fighting hunger, and constantly learning how to survive.

Today, at 20, Laurence is mastering the art of coffee and dreaming about the spectacular family home that may one day become a reality.

Laurence has the fondest of memories of his childhood. One of ten siblings, he was surrounded by family, including his beloved grandfather, who he affectionately remembers going fishing with.

Unfortunately though, by the time Laurence was 17, things weren’t so smooth sailing, and a fight with his parents left him homeless.

“This was a decision I made on my own. It was hard at times, I remember always feeling hungry. For nine long months I lived on the streets,” Laurence said.

But, the resilient young man said that he wouldn’t change this experience for anything.

“It taught me how to survive,” he said.

Laurence’s life began to change when he signed up to the Youth CONNECT program in February 2018 and he met with his case workers Alannah and then Kathryn, who each had a lasting impact thanks to their kindness.
“Through Youth CONNECT I was able to get my own place,” Laurence said.

“I remember thinking when I got my first place it was somewhere I could call my home, and it was somewhere I could give my partner that was safe too.”

In March 2019, Laurence started a traineeship at a local community centre, which he proudly graduated from on 16 August 2019.

“This was one of the best moments of my life. I built so many positive relationship with peers and the staff.”
Laurence passed all his courses and gained experience as a barista, as well as other café skills, which he hopes to use to open his own café one day, where he can give other people jobs and help feed people who are hungry, just like he was when he experienced homelessness.

Through the traineeship he was also able to get his Responsible Service of Alcohol Certificate and completed a Certificate in Successful Tenancies, which he said he wished he had done before he was left with a hefty maintenance bill from one of his tenancies.

Laurence’s traineeship supervisor, Franklyn, said that “He was a pleasure to have from the start. He has a great personality for hospitality and had great abilities working on computers and was a good at problem solving.”

As the end of his traineeship approached and he had a panic attack about what he was going to do next, he proactively applied for a number of barista jobs. He was delighted to receive a great deal of interest and was able to choose a café that as the right fit for him working five days a week. His partner also was able to get a good job.

With stable housing, a good steady job and a girl he loves, Laurence is now able to concentrate on achieving his future dreams, something that would not have been possible when he was homeless and hungry.

“My future goals include owning my own home, with five bedrooms to shelter my family; even my parents, as our relationship has improved over the past two years. I would also like a make-up room for my partner, have gold door knobs and a massive bike track,” he said.

Laurence is a true success story and what the Youth CONNECT program is about—helping young people experiencing vulnerabilities to find the supports they need to thrive in adulthood.

With the support of dedicated case managers, they are able to find appropriate accommodation as well as education and employment options to help them achieve their goals. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people, they are also assisted to maintain a connection to their culture and kin.

“It’s through my strong sense of culture and family that I want to help those less fortunate than me”.

*name and image changed for privacy reasons