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Lessons learnt from the streets to lessons earned at university

5 minute read

On any given night across Australia, 1 in 200 people is homeless. Recent census data also suggests that over 100,000 Australians who are currently homeless, 1 in 10 are university or TAFE students and 56% are male.

At the start of this year, Chaz was homeless. He never thought that he would find himself in the situation where he didn’t have anywhere to spend the night in the western suburbs of Adelaide.

He had recently moved out of the family home, was living in a share house and working part-time in a restaurant with the aim of earning enough money so that he could also kick-start his studies at university.

“Looking back at that moment a lot of things go through your head,” says Chaz.

“You then ask yourself all these questions like where do I go, what do I do, and who can help.”

His first point of call for assistance was our Youth Employment Partnership (YEP) team, who deliver services for the Transition to Work program across Sydney and Adelaide. Formed in 2016 to address the challenge of youth unemployment, they work with people aged 15-21 particularly amongst disadvantaged and disengaged participants who haven’t completed school.

He first teamed up with YEP when he was referred to our Woodville team to balance and meet his expectations of gaining the necessary skills and qualifications to realise his employment and education goals.

It was then that our Work Mentors Jade and Claire immediately began to map up a career and education pathway plan for Chaz. They enrolled him into a Certificate III in Business to assist him with preparing and planning the basis for future studies, as well as learning the basic foundations of how to perform in a workplace setting.

While Chaz was keen to further explore his study options, his progress took a dramatic step backwards.

“I was sleeping in my car and I was looking at more options for share housing but felt that I couldn’t afford the rent at the time.

“I came and spoke to Jade about my situation and she instantly got me an appointment with a youth housing officer and advocated for me to move in straight away,” says Chaz.

The YEP team worked with Chaz to support him in finding accommodation. Through his meeting with the youth housing officer, Chaz was offered secure accommodation enabling him to continue with his surrounding support networks.

Our team were then able to provide further program support with basic household items such as kettle, toaster, cutlery and rice cooker for him to help him get through.

With his attention now focused on his study ambitions, YEP helped Chaz prepare for the STAT (Special Tertiary Admissions Test) by providing him a simulated test environment in preparation. With our team providing the necessary funds to sit the test, Chaz then successfully achieved the marks that he needed to enrol in a Bachelor of Psychology.

“Having had a pretty rough childhood, I believe that I have learnt a lot about life, the struggle and people in general,” says Chaz as he reflects on why he decided to pursue his current career goal.

“I believe that I can give something back to those who have gone through a similar situation, so I am studying with the goal to support and assist people with similar experiences."

Since 2016, YEP Australia has engaged and monitored over 2000 young people aged 15-21 who have been referred to our services for the Transition to  Work program by the Federal Government. From this figure 800 have secured employment, many in their first ever job and 625 have enrolled to further their studies with the support of our team of Mentors.

Claire is currently coaching Chaz and providing further support such as coaching and where to go for additional support.

“It also helps that Chaz and I have studied at the same university, which has also been valuable for coaching or career advice,” says Claire.

Another personal achievement to note is that Chaz is also the first person in his family to study at university.

“Chaz is a dedicated young man who wants to work with other young people in the future.  He sets his mind to a goal and works really hard to achieve it without letting anything stop him or get in his way,” says Jade.

Chaz is now is progressing well through his first semester of studies and continues to receive support and encouragement from our Mentors Jade and Claire.

“My life is finally stable and I feel I am going in a direction rather than just trying to survive, Claire and Jade provided me with the right tools to change my situation for the better.

“I know Jade and Claire are always dependable and reliable and I can always talk to them when I need support. I have always found I can come to YEP whenever I need assistance and answers and support will always be provided,” says Chaz.

Homelessness Week was held on August 6-12 and is an annual week coordinated by Homelessness Australia to raise awareness of people experiencing homelessness, the issues they face and the action needed to achieve enduring solutions.

For more information, visit www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au

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