Homeless at 16 - one girl's journey to rebuilding her life
Growing up is hard. The journey from childhood to adulthood is full of change, uncertainty and challenges. Sadly, some young people find themselves facing unimaginable difficulties and huge barriers — often from no fault of their own.
Take Zoe*, who at just 16, was forced out of her home with nowhere else to go. For as long as she could remember, Zoe had been molested and abused by her stepdad. When she finally plucked up the courage to tell her mum, she was accused of "making it all up" and thrown out of home. Her mum's rejection was almost as painful as the abuse she had suffered.
Upset, scared and lonely, Zoe spent months moving between homeless shelters and hostels, or sleeping rough in parks, squats and abandoned buildings. Cut off from her family and friends, she had no money for food and no one to turn to for help.
Shockingly, it is estimated that there are 43,552 Australians under 25 who, like Zoe, are homeless and have nowhere safe to sleep.1
Like many young people in her situation, Zoe's homelessness left her feeling desperate and overwhelmed by a feeling of terrible hopelessness. She eventually became so depressed that taking her own life seemed her only option. After months of living on the streets without hope, Zoe attempted suicide.
Homelessness broke me. Despite everything I had been through and survived, it was being homeless that got me in the end.
Being referred to Mission Australia by her hospital's mental health team was Zoe's first step to overcoming the trauma she had suffered for so many years.
Zoe was connected to Mission Australia's Roma House, which provides residential care and support for homeless people, many of whom suffer from mental illness. Mission Australia’s recovery workers worked closely with her to restore her physically, mentally and emotionally.
Zoe was nurtured and encouraged to achieve her dreams and potential through her talent for painting. Her confidence grew and slowly she began to trust other people again. To help her on her path to independence, Mission Australia also made sure Zoe had the skills to manage her own money and care for herself.
Zoe is now thriving. She lives in affordable accommodation and remains connected to support networks. For the first time in her life, she is excited and optimistic about her future. In 2020, Mission Australia assisted 10,624 young people like Zoe through 22 dedicated youth services.
Every Australian should have a safe home
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1ABS (2018) Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2016
*Name changed to protect the identity of the people we help
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