Why Youth Homelessness Matters to me?
Today is Youth Homelessness Matters Day which is part of National Youth Week. I was driving along today and began to reflect on this day and why youth homelessness matters so much to me. So much that I have devoted the last 20 years to working with homelessness and vulnerable young people and the last 5 of these years to Joining Hands.
When I was a teenager and going out partying at night in Toowoomba I was acutely aware of those who had and those did not. There were many Sunday mornings when my parents would rise to find 1, 2 3 or 4 extra young people on our lounge room floor. I would spend my nights out connecting to those who felt lost and in need and did what made complete sense to me at the time – brought them to my home so they were safe! I admire my parents deeply who supported my social justice, fight for the underdog kinda ways and I was never in trouble. When we could afford it, some were even invited to stay a little longer.
My actions seemed completely normal to me. For me when 1 suffers we all suffer. I feel that while I have the capacity to create great change this is what I am called to do. I know no other way.
Yesterday was my 45th birthday. For those who know me you know that my birthday is a very BIG deal and worth celebrating for at least a week!! This year is no exception. Dancing with death through cancer in 2008 gifted me a deep deep appreciation and gratitude for my life. I truly did not believe I would make 40 so to be here today at the age of 45 is pretty f*&king incredible! It feels like a powerful, centred time filled with wisdom and I have the sense that I am just starting to lean into my power and are destined to create great change for those in need – so look out 😉
I want to share why I chose to share my 45th birthday yesterday with Joining Hands and the amazing staff, volunteers and homeless and vulnerable young people that access the Red Cross Night Café in Brisbane City. When I saw that my birthday fell on a Tuesday that we give back access to Massage and Bowen at Red Cross I was lit up with excitement and knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to share my birthday with these amazing young people through being there and of course a birthday cake! I shared the idea with my 2 wing women (and closest of friends!) and they offered to gift me a homemade cake to take with me on the night. Well thank you Em from Not So Nanna and Tina what a cracker cake!. Last night was a celebration of so much. At 7pm we all gathered around the table and the whole place filled with joy as they sang me happy birthday. It brought tears to my eyes and filled my heart with love. I stood and drank it all in with 2 amazing young men at my side. It was beautiful and I felt so deeply honoured to share my birthday with these young people, some of whom I knew and some complete strangers. POWERFUL. Throughout the night I received well wishes, hugs and love from young people who have received treatments from our team over the last year and those who walked through the Red Cross doors last night for the first time. Watch the magic unfold in this video.
Why are these young people homeless you may ask. Did you know that over 44 000 young people experience homelessness in Australia every single day!
Young people who are experiencing homelessness are not there by choice. They find themselves there due to complex reasons such as domestic and family violence, abuse, neglect, affordable housing shortage, discrimination, mental health, socio-economic disadvantage just to name a mighty few.
I am often asked questions such as did they leave home because there were too many rules and they didn’t want to listen to their parents. NO! Over the past 20 years I have not met a single young person who chose to live away from home and move into unsafe conditions such as the streets and couch surfing just because they did not like the rules at home.
Why would a loved, supported and held young person choose to put themselves at risk of harm by leaving home unless the risk of harm in leaving is less than the risk of harm they are currently experiencing at home.
I hear some of you cry out but what about young people who use drugs and that they choose this. Yes a choice, yet a forced choice. It is more often than not a young person who is experiencing complete disconnect that reaches out to find a way, anyway to feel a sense of connection or numb the sense of disconnection. This path can result in drug use.
So why does this matter and create such a lasting impact on me?
For me the answer is simple. Youth homelessness is unjust and it is unfair.
These young people who have had so much taken away from them, still have so much to give. This is truly INSPIRING and fills my heart and ignites my passion to continue to grow Joining Hands and our Ambassador Program knowing that alone we can make a difference and together we can make an almighty difference.
With every cell of my being I want to thank you all for your incredible support so far and I am so excited to share 2017 with you all as we take off and soar creating positive impact on the lives of these amazing young people that we are privileged to meet each week.
Big love…………Kylie xxx