Joe: I’ve known the Salvos since the beginning. In 2010 I left home; I was 10. I chose to leave by myself. Mum was on marijuana, drinking, smoking, and not feeding us four kids, or sending us to school. She was not caring for us, and getting drunk every night. Hurting me, doing not very nice things. Very horrible things.
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I got the worst of it because I was the youngest; she had the most power over me I suppose. It sucks that had to happen. I’m happy with where I am now without her. That sounds horrible. But life’s been pretty good. I came back for emergency accommodation last year. I was in emergency accommodation for a couple of nights and then I stayed in accommodation.
I was such a rebel kid back then. Getting in trouble at school. There was lots of one-on-one support back then; it was safe, like a family. Because I’d never actually had a family. To have the workers there; they understood. They were just so supportive.
I want to become a social worker. I’m doing my cert 4 community services at TAFE; I’m working on assignments.
I was only about 10, so I was having nightmares and stuff; they’d make sure I was OK. When I left home I kept having flashbacks to what Mum would do. They actually created a booklet for me; it was so good. I remember clearly what it was. What would happen is they’d get me to write in the book – like the ‘who what why where how’ of the dream. And then the next morning I’d show them and they’d sit down with me and we’d discuss it. They Salvos were supportive and understanding; they were just there when no one else was. They helped you settle in, you’re shoved there and they make it a home.
I went to a foster family for a few years, for the first time. They tried to find a family for me. I did grade 12 while I was living with the Salvos, and I was working casually at Kmart. I’ve just started doing volunteering at a charity, and got accepted into a youth committee.
I graduated from year 12 last year. I don’t really get how I did it. It was like a huge relief for me. The Salvos supported me 100%. They’d come out and check on me and make sure I’m OK. It’s really good how they know what you’re going through. It’s good to have people who have got your back. I have my own little unit. And from 4 – 9, I go over on some of those nights and interact with the other people staying in the crisis units. They’ll have activities usually, not every single time.
On other nights I’ll be down in my unit having time to myself, learning to be independent and on my own. It breaks up the week a little bit having one night with everyone. They actually cook a meal for everyone that night. I normally cook for myself the other nights.
I actually see a psychologist and talk to her about stuff as well. She’s there on site. It’s good to have a therapist there all the time. I feel at home. But I am looking for a house of my own. When I was 10 it was really scary. If the Salvos hadn’t got involved when they did, back in those days, and even now – if I didn’t have them, I had no idea what was going to happen. Having them and the people there to support me…I wouldn’t be talking to you right now, pretty much. It would’ve been a totally different story.
I might not have done year 12. I’m the only one in my family who has done year 12 and been all the way through school. I’m the only one that’s done a TAFE course. The only one that’s got a job; two jobs at the same time. I’m just proving them all wrong. And that’s what everyone tells me, to prove them all wrong and that’s my aim.
Life is hugely different now. Even in myself. The way I think and the way I go about things is completely different. I used to think that leaving home was the worst thing I could’ve done. But I can see now it was so worth it. It’s all because people have had my back. And have backed me up. I like to reflect on where I’ve been. I’m shocked myself on where I’ve come to. I used to think people out there didn’t really care; they were just doing their job for money. But they actually do care about people; they help because they love their job. They do it for a reason. They see potential in every single kid…even the worst of the worst.
I want young kids to understand that, yes, there are hard times, and times you feel like no one is there to support you. But there is. I would say to other young people: don’t give up. There is help. You aren’t alone. I’d also say, push yourself. You might find something hard at first, like applying for a house. I learnt that living on your own isn’t that bad. I think being pushed out of your comfort zone is good. It’ll be worth it in the long run; it pays off.
excerpted, as told to Katherine Goswell
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