Refuge for youth when home is not an option

SARAH Blainey is just one of the success stories to come out of The Foyer since it opened its doors to youths in need about 18 months ago.

The Foyer resident Sarah Blainey (middle) with senior case worker Chrissie Duncan and The Foyer manager Jenny Hand reflect on the help the centre provides. 140804RG07 Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

The Foyer resident Sarah Blainey (middle) with senior case worker Chrissie Duncan and The Foyer manager Jenny Hand reflect on the help the centre provides. 140804RG07 Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Earlier this year, 16-year-old Sarah had ditched year 10 studies at TAFE amid family turmoil, which resulted in her being homeless.

Unable to live with her father and left behind in Warrnambool by her mother, Sarah was couch-surfing her way from friend’s house to friend’s house, unsure where she would be sleeping. 

“When all that stuff happened I stopped going to school,” she said.

“It was too much pressure to deal with all that and also go to school.”

Since moving into The Foyer about five months ago, Sarah is back at TAFE and doing well. 

On top of getting refocused on her studies, she even found time to enter and win a statewide photographic competition — something that would never have been possible while couch-surfing.

The Foyer is operated by Brophy Family & Youth Services. 

Manager Jenny Hand said the centre gave young at-risk people a helping hand and a gateway to independence.

The Warrnambool complex contains 16 units for people aged 16 to 25, giving them a place to live, a community environment, and a case worker to assist.

“Living here, they’re doing (normal) stuff like going to school and having some opportunities they might not usually have,” Ms Hand said.

“Most of the people here have experienced some kind of insecure housing or have faced issues (that mean) they can’t remain with their families.

“It’s not necessarily for people with complex needs.

“We simply support them with their educational and employment goals. We help them develop individual living skills.”

Residents rent their units, keep them clean for weekly inspections and learn skills like budgeting and cooking.

Case worker Chrissie Duncan said each resident had different requirements and was at a different stage of their lives, but each of them needed a little bit of a push in the right direction.

“It’s a stepping stone to independence so that when they get their own place it’s more sustainable,” Ms Duncan said.

Residents can stay for a maximum of two years, with 27 people having passed through and benefited from The Foyer already. “It’s an early-intervention approach,” Ms Hand said.

“It’s based on a model that’s been operating in the UK for more than 50 years, so it’s a well-researched,  evidence-based program of accommodation.”

There are guidelines for residents, CCTV cameras around the facility and a staff member at hand 24 hours a day, but Ms Hand said the young people living there welcomed the structure and security as it was something that had been missing from their lives previously.

Ms Hand said residents were provided with everything from wake-up calls, lifts to school, mentoring access, cooking classes and much more — whatever they needed to help get their lives back on track and gain independence and self-confidence.

Their time at The Foyer also gave residents a rental history, which helped them when they finally moved on from the supported environment.

Sarah said she would miss the place when she goes, but was excited and more confident about moving on thanks to what she had learnt there.

“It will be weird not being here, but then again I’m looking forward to getting my own place and trying to see how I go on my own without the support,” she said.

mneal@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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