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“We are that constant, connection and support for young people.”

Erica sitting on the couch

This is Erica. Her role is to support the staff and young people at Mara House and Colville Place, as the youth housing coordinator. 

Her team’s aim is to support the youth at our shelters to achieve outcomes and reach their potential. 

She says the young people at Mara and Colville are there for similar reasons – family breakdown, challenges with mental health, disengagement from education and other services within the community, and problems with drugs and alcohol. 

“We try to support these young people to exit the system as early as possible and to have an early intervention focus with what we do so they’re not reliant on the shelter system and cycling in and out of it,” she said. 

Unfortunately, over the past 9 years, she’s seen young people who need shelters again and again. 

“At Mara House, we look after young women aged 13 to 20 years of age who are experiencing homelessness and don’t have a safe place to stay. 

“We focus on building independence – finding an income, education, employment, community connections, and daily living skills such as cooking and cleaning. 

“We provide holistic support with whatever the young person needs to help them build their capacity. 

She says it isn’t always the big wins, but the connections you make that can make a huge difference for people who use the services. 

Erica remembers a girl who left Mara House, whose accommodation ended badly, but she called up about two years later and wanted to tell them how she was going. 

“She had a housing outcome and wanted to tell us. She’d also quit smoking and started exercising and eating well. 

“The things that stuck with her were things that we did with her every day that you don’t think too much about. They made the biggest difference in her life. 

“The day-to-day interaction and the rapport that you build with young people is what they remember,” she said. 

Another example is a young male who had outgrown Colville, and she hadn’t heard from him for a while. 

“He was in and out of our services for quite a long time and on his 16th birthday he called just before midnight and wanted to speak to us, to have us there as he celebrated his birthday. 

“It wasn’t necessarily a big outcome, but for him, we were that constant connection and support, and while he can no longer have official support from us, due to his age, we are the one place he still calls.” 

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