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Homeless youths plea for help -

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Homeless youths plea for help

The World Today - Tuesday, 8 April , 2008 12:25:00

Reporter: Michael Turtle

ASHLEY HALL: We're tenacious, we're creative, don't give up on us. That was the plea from a young
man who became homeless at the age of 16 at the launch of a national report into youth homelessness
this morning.

The report is the result of a year long independent inquiry by the National Youth Commission, which
found that 36,000 young Australians are homeless on any given night.

Dwain is 20-years-old, and has been homeless for most of his teenage years.

Dwain is speaking here with youth affairs reporter Michael Turtle.

DWAIN: I went through a lot of tragedies in my family. In a short period of time, a lot of family
members that were close to me passed away. Like, our family is very close because we migrated from
Wales and we only have like immediate family here that lives with me.

So, I went through those things and I got really mixed up, got a bit vulnerable, and hung with peer
people because my parents ... peer pressure, like friends, my peers. And because my family was like
going through the same difficulties, like they didn't have much time to really be able to focus on
me so much.

They had their work to get through the grief as well, and ended up with people who were doing
drugs, things like that. And before you knew it, I became too much for my family, you know,
reluctantly had to put me out.

MICHAEL TURTLE: What's it like when you get caught up in the wrong crowd that you mentioned, and
you start taking drugs and the like?

DWAIN: Like, you got all these grief and pains that you just want to put away and you end up doing
stupid things to get attention and taking drugs to just put your mind in a place where you don't
have to think about the problems, so you kind of like disengage.

Hanging with those people, you know, you don't realise what you're getting yourself into until you
get to the end, until it gets to the end, until it gets really bad and you hit rock bottom.

MICHAEL TURTLE: And then when you found yourself without a home, what did you do to sleep at night?

DWAIN: I don't know, sometimes I would just stay on the train and go to a far destination. End up
getting tickets sometimes, and stuff like that, but it was shelter. Sometimes you'd be out in a
park and you'd make fires to keep yourself warm and put like ... get yourself in like a sleeping
bag or something, if you had, or whatever you could find, any kind of material to cover you, to
keep you warm.

And put like a bin bag or something over you and except for like the holes where you breathe, like
your nose and that to stop mosquitoes and rain getting on you. And just hide in a place where you
don't get seen.

MICHAEL TURTLE: Did you find that if you looked for help at shelters or crisis accommodation that
things were available for you?

DWAIN: It was very, very hard to get into accommodation. Most of the time that I rang the homeless
person's line, there's no vacancies. And when I finally did get through into a refuge, I'd end up
in an adult's refuge, because this is after I was 18, and it was very scary because you had
40-year-olds dealing with mental illness and stuff like that themselves, and it was just a very
unpredictable environment and I actually felt better off, more safe, on the streets.

MICHAEL TURTLE: What kind of things do you think would have helped you when you were sort of
reaching out for some help and some accommodation?

DWAIN: If the organisations were able to just make a bit more of an outreach to let people know
where these places are and make it a bit, you know, funky to catch attention, I think that would
have helped too.

And have ... I think there needs to be more vacancies. Like, there's just such a list of people
that I know that are homeless and you know, there's a list ... there's a line of people waiting to
get into a place and it's just ... it's ridiculous.

I mean, we're in ... we're not in a third world country. We've got a lot of money, but the money is
not being used to get, to rope these kids in to catch them, you know. And they've fallen.

ASHLEY HALL: Dwain from the Oasis Youth Centre in Sydney, speaking with youth affairs reporter,
Michael Turtle.