I grew up in a fairly well-off family on Sydney’s North Shore with a nice house and went to a private school. To an outsider my life looked quite good and I didn’t fit the stereotype of a homeless young person. But my home wasn’t a safe place and I suffered many years of abuse. I did try and let people know what was going on but they usually didn’t believe me.
I found Phoenix House when I was 17 after a teacher at TAFE really got what was going on for me at home. Phoenix became my family. I have accessed all their services including counselling, living skills, education, job support and social activities. They gave me security and most importantly believed me. They made me the focus – the first time anyone had done that.
It’s not just about having a room or a house but a home. It’s not just about getting a job but learning how to live again and keep that job.
Growing up in an affluent area doesn’t mean young people don’t need help. Phoenix House helped me to completely turn my life around.
I’ve completed school and University and now work as an Assistant Manager. At times I still need the support of Phoenix House – even if it’s just talking to someone who really understands me.
I’m now an experienced English/Drama teacher specialising in flexible education but I’ve had a long journey to get to where I am today. My early childhood was marked by a very disruptive home life with bouts of homelessness, living in care and sporadic schooling.
I became a client of Phoenix House in my late teens and I remember clearly a supportive, kind and caring environment for the first time in my life. It was like I could exhale for the first time.
What I remember most about my time being supported by Phoenix House was the laughter. I was so surprised that I could get the support I needed without it being a dark and depressing experience. This approach really helped me feel positive for my future and end encouraged me to find what I was passionate about. My journey to becoming a teacher was a long one but with Phoenix House’s support at the beginning I would never have got there.
I worked hard to become a teacher but will always acknowledge the significant role Phoenix House played in helping me have a future.
Matthew had been living alone in his family home since the age of 12 after his mother left Mudgee for Sydney. He mowed lawns to earn money to pay the rent and buy food. He attended school regularly, at least in the beginning, but over time he began to fall behind and started avoiding classes altogether. The school would send letters home and in an effort to keep his secret, Matthew would forge his mother’s signature on the replies.
After 2 years, Matthew’s mother attempted to reconnect with him, sending him the fare to travel to Sydney. He arrived in Sydney and reconnected with his mother but realised he needed more support. He was connected with the counselling service at Phoenix House with the sessions focussing on restoring the relationship with his Mother. During one of these visits, his Counsellor mentioned that ‘Feel Good Night’ was on and Matthew went along for a haircut. During the evening, he started engaging with one of the Community Youth Development Specialists who worked with him to provide him with the wrap-around support he needed to thrive and move forward. With this support he was able to access brokerage from Phoenix House to attend a sport and recreation camp.
Phoenix House assisted Matthew to re-enrol in high school and continued to support him through his schooling and Matthew completed Year 12. At various points throughout this time, Matthew reconnected with the Counsellor. He came “not [for] early intervention crap… [but for] counselling to help me… ‘.
Matthew has continued in counselling with us, ensuring he receives the extra support he needs at stressful times in his life and as time has gone by this has become less and less. Phoenix House further supported Matthew to attend further training after his schooling to achieve his dream of becoming a bus driver. He is now successfully employed with State Transit as a bus driver. Matthew had also received a scholarship to participate in the Rotary Youth Leadership Award program which he describes as “Life changing”. Matthew is a valued member of our Alumni Group and continues to be involved with Phoenix House after 12 years.
Do you or someone you know need help? We can help direct you to the most appropriate services in your local area.
Phoenix House provides early intervention and support services for young people. If you or someone you know needs support to finish school, get work experience, life skills, individual and family counselling – we’re here to help.