A journey better shared
When Blake first came to The Salvation Army’s Oasis Youth Services in Canberra he was just 16.
Six years later, and now living in his own unit, he continues to receive support and assistance from the service. Blake’s story is one of a long journey made easier through the consistent support of his case workers.
Blake’s teenage years were tough. Living with an intellectual disability made schooling difficult. Classroom tasks were challenging and the school yard even more so. When he hit Year 8, he began to get bullied. His behaviour worsened and he was subsequently expelled from school.
Blake remembers a lot of conflict at home at that time and the family having to move into temporary accommodation. Without enough room for all of them, Blake was unable to stay. He found refuge at The Salvation Army’s Oasis Youth Services, which, across four different locations in Canberra, offers emergency accommodation for young people experiencing homelessness.
Blake desperately wanted to be at home with his family, but it wasn’t possible at the time. Without his family or anyone familiar, Blake was scared and struggled to adjust. It was also hard for Blake to be in emergency accommodation with other young people who were older and seemed intimidating. Support at that time was focused on Blake building confidence and developing living skills. Gradually, Blake started to adjust and feel relaxed with Oasis staff. He also began to form relationships with the other young people, which made him feel more comfortable.
“At first I was nervous,” Blake remembers, “but then I started liking them.”
Blake started to feel accepted and, once his confidence increased, he began setting goals. Building on an interest in computers, Blake was supported to undertake work experience with a local IT company.
“I didn’t know Blake when he first came to Oasis, but from what I’ve heard, he was quite scared and apprehensive,” says his Oasis Youth Services outreach case manager, Ben. “He had been in a vulnerable situation.”
When Blake’s family were allocated a property in Tuggeranong, Blake was supported to return home. A caravan was placed in the yard as there was no space in the house for Blake. This arrangement worked well for a while and he benefited from an Oasis outreach worker who provided support to maintain the living arrangement.
However, after a while, the caravan became an issue for Blake, who wasn’t comfortable in such a confined space away from his family. So Blake began to live in the lounge room. This arrangement contributed to conflict in the home. Weekend respite was put in place at Oasis to give both Blake and his mum a break. Eventually, Blake returned to Oasis for a second stay when the situation at home broke down.
“Blake was encouraged to return to Oasis and give it another shot,” says Ben. “The Salvation Army is about people finding freedom. At Oasis we don’t believe in hopeless cases or lost causes. We’re about second, third and fourth chances. When Blake returned he was welcomed back warmly.”
Blake thrived during his second stay with Oasis and noticeably matured during the time he was with the service. Blake stayed in the service for more than 12 months on this occasion so he could develop his living skills to the point where he could live independently. With increased confidence in himself and his abilities to interact with others, Blake had learned to catch buses, keep a tidy room, manage his finances and participate in community activities.
It was a challenge to find the right housing option for Blake: a comfortable home, access to shops and transport, with supports in place for his independent living. Oasis was up for the challenge and brokered a partnership with Capital Community Housing. When Blake moved into his own place, he was assisted with finding weekly volunteer work, maintaining a positive relationship with his family and given one-on-one coaching to develop his confidence, realise his goals and plan for his future.
“I’ve got my own house, which is good; I’ve got my own space now,” says Blake.
Without the help of the Oasis, Blake and his mum “wouldn’t have the same relationship that we have now. We’ve gotten a lot closer and we get along a lot better than we used to.”
Six years on from his first encounter with Oasis Youth Services, Blake is now living independently and pursuing his goals: “I want to get a job and a licence.” Blake has been involved in volunteering and will continue to give his time to the community in this way.
Ben (his Oasis outreach worker) visits once a week. They hang out; Ben assists Blake with various tasks such as making and attending appointments, and setting steps in place to work towards his goals. The support is focused on Oasis stepping away as Blake’s independence continues to grow.
“He’s a great guy,” says Ben. “He’s always looking to the future. We talk about jobs and moving forward in life and how we can achieve those goals. It’s always great to see younger people hungry to move forward in their life after such adversity.”
“Josh, Lorne, Bec and all the workers at the refuge helped me through a hard patch in my life,” says Blake. “They played a part in my life and made me stronger. I don’t think I would be the person I am today without Salvos.”
Blake’s story is unique but one of thousands of journeys The Salvation Army takes with people in need. Each journey is different. Some, like Blake’s, takes place over a long period of time. Others are much shorter. Regardless of the circumstances, The Salvation Army never gives up … because The Salvation Army believes that hope is for everyone.