• Steph Stephens

Life is looking up for Lily

Lily (not her real name) became homeless last year at the age of 16 due to her mother’s misuse of illicit substances.

Her parents separated leaving Lily to take care of her little brother as well as her father who suffers from mental illness. Then her relationship with her father broke down, her mental health deteriorated, and she became homeless.

Lily is couch-surfing with a friend’s family. Her friend was a previous client of Raw Potential Canberra (RPC) and referred her to RPC.

Lily had been enrolled at CIT but sadly she disengaged because of her situation. When we met her, she was extremely withdrawn and sad.

She told us that she wanted to return to college and asked RPC to assist. She was successfully enrolled, and we advocated on her behalf for the college to take into consideration Lily’s circumstances. As a result, the college provided her extra support.

The family who have supported Lily and allowed her to stay long-term is unique and beautiful. Lily is one less young person on the Canberra streets.

Although she has a safe place to return to each night, she continues to face challenges of ‘abandonment’ from her family and from her mother in particular. “It’s so sh*t when your own mum chooses drugs over you”, said Lily.

RPC supported Lily to access Centrelink as she had no income. This was a frustrating process as Lily had to be assessed as ‘living independently’. She has been accepted onto Youth Allowance and this enables her to pay for her bills, food and board.

During catch ups with Lily, RPC encouraged her to seek mental health support for her childhood trauma, her relationships with her family and her anxiety.

Lily was reluctant to access these supports, but after a lot of discussion with our Youth Workers about the benefit of mental health support, Lily self-referred herself to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service). She now attends regular appointments with a psychologist, and is working on her mental health strategies.

One of Lily’s goals was to complete her ‘Road Ready’ course to get her licence. RPC teamed up with Y-engage and with their support she passed! This was a long-term goal for Lily. She was so proud of herself as were we at Raw Potential. We then helped Lily to go to Access Canberra and paid for her driving licence.

Lily is still working with RPC as she is still at risk of homelessness. Currently, she is still living at her friend’s house. She has just started a new casual job at a fast food restaurant and received a top grade in one of her subjects at college.

Her main goal for 2020 is the successful completion of her course of study. We wish her well.

Nicolle Applewhite Youth Outreach Worker, RPC

* St John’s Care is the service provider for Raw Potential Canberra

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