On track for a brighter future
14 April 2022
When 21-year old Zanthe* first came to the Salvos youth services, she had been caught up in a cycle of homelessness and substance abuse. But she is now feeling positive about her future and dreams of helping people the way Salvos have helped her.
Before receiving support, Zanthe says she didn’t care about who she hurt or about herself. Her living arrangements were overcrowded and unstable and she was exposed to a range of unhealthy behaviours.
“I slept on the couch with some of my other cousins – occasionally I would sleep in the spare bed in my Nan’s room. All my clothes and belongings were kept in bags in my Nan’s cupboard,” says Zanthe.
“We were encouraged to go to school but weren’t pushed if we couldn’t be bothered. There was always someone drinking, and smoking weed, which at the time I was doing as well.”
Zanthe says living in a house with a lot of people from different age groups and with varying mental health issues meant there were frequent physical fights and arguments.
“My coping mechanism at that time in my life was to pretty much just smoke, drink and party my life away. Just anything to make myself feel numb – to take everything day-by-day.”
Despite this, Zanthe admits there were many times where she knew she needed to do something about her situation.
“The final time when I said I really need help and to do something about this, was when I reached out to my United Care worker and the Aboriginal support worker [at my high school] and just opened up to them about everything and the way I was feeling.
“The Aboriginal support worker sort of knew things that were going on as she knew my family. I would go to her office to sleep on the couches when I didn’t want to be in class or around people – or if I didn’t have anything to eat.”
Refuge and recovery
Zanthe was eventually referred to The Salvation Army by the United Care worker as it was deemed that her living arrangements were putting her in harm’s way.
“I had a great Aboriginal support worker who I was comfortable with who took me out to the youth refuge and made sure I was okay. I then went through the intake process and was introduced to everyone.”
The Salvos supported Luna with accommodation at the youth refuge. She was also later referred to the Youth Justice Community Support (YJCSS) program where she came into contact with Salvos case worker, Bianca.
While working with Zanthe, Bianca was able to support her in practical ways, such as helping her to attain her learner’s permit and building her 120 hours of driving experience. Zanthe also engaged in other innovative Salvos programs that helped her grow in confidence and believe in herself and her future.
Able to access transitional housing through a YJ-THM property, Zanthe was also supported to live independently and she took pride in maintaining her tenancy and being able to create a safe space for herself.
“Zanthe really stepped up in her time in the THM,” says Bianca. “She took care in choosing her friendship group and in general the company she kept. She found employment and valued her own income. I believe Zanthe had really come to realise there was no shame in accessing supports for help or calling on supports when she didn’t know something.”
Reconnecting and re-engaging
In the course of her support, Zanthe was encouraged to strengthen positive relationships with family and friends. Bianca says seeing the healing that came from repairing relationships was a highlight of her time with Zanthe, adding that she has been so impressed by the strength and determination shown by ‘this remarkable young Aboriginal woman’ on her journey.
“When Zanthe’s accommodation became stable and safe, she had the opportunity to focus on her schooling. This is where she realised the value in education, to the point where I saw her encouraging other young people to re-engage with education programs,” says Bianca.
“Instead of simply surviving the chaos and numbing the pain, Zanthe began making plans for her future because for the first time in a long time, she was living in an environment that allowed for a future instead of mere survival.”
While Zanthe strongly believes that no one can be helped unless they are ready to be helped, for her, realising that she wanted to get her life on track, was all she needed to persist through the challenges.
“Don’t get me wrong,” she says. “There were times I just wanted to give up and say, ‘stuff all this’ but then I would think, ‘no, I want a better life for myself, I don’t want to keep repeating the ways I do things.’”
Knowing that she had support from people who cared for her – such as the Salvos, her Aboriginal support worker and trusted friends – was also key to getting through.
Care without judgement
While she has had a lot of ups and downs on her journey, Zanthe says her life has now changed in a way she never imagined.
“I have reached milestones in my life that I never thought I would reach. I didn’t think I would make it to 18 – but I am now 19. I have successfully rented a unit, I have gotten my L’s, I have kept employment for over 12 months, I have gotten help with my mental health, I have gotten help with my drinking and drug use and I am happy.”
For Bianca, one of the biggest challenges about her role is convincing young people of their worth and that they have opportunity to create value in their lives instead of relying on others to provide it for them. “It’s an ongoing battle,” she says, “but Zanthe continually wins hers.”
Zanthe now hopes to gain employment in the community service sector and is currently studying for a Certificate 3 in community services at TAFE.
Having been through it all, Zanthe wants other young people who may be going through a rough time to know that the help is out there when they are ready to accept it.
“There are people who do want to see you be what you want to become – there are people who have your back. You’re not going to be judged, I promise you that. They [the Salvos] will welcome you with open arms to help support you to get where you want to be. You may fall down but you have to get back up and keep working to your goal.
“Trust me it will be a weight lifted off your shoulders when you can finally say ‘I made it.’”