At 15, Brooke Arrowsmith’s future looked anything but rosy.
She had returned to Byron Bay from the Gold Coast after falling out with her mother – her only family.
Initially she stayed with friends because she had nowhere else to go and re-enrolled in school to finish Year 10.
Brooke thought everything would be OK.
But the novelty of living with friends began to wear off and she started skipping school and doing things she said she shouldn’t have been doing, including sleeping on the beach.
Then one day a friend told her about the Byron Bay Youth House in Browning Street and the support it offered.
By then 16, she stepped through the doors of the house and her life began turning around.
“They offered me food, shelter, guidance and stability, things I couldn’t offer myself,” she told a ‘Youth Homelessness Matters Day’ gathering at the house last Wednesday.
“It took a while for me to accept that help was being offered just because I needed it.
“My confidence was low in others and in myself.
“At the youth house I learned skills to help me cope in every day life.
“They also helped me recreate a relationship with my mother.”
Brooke later had a second stay at the house during which she was offered a place in its exit-house program.
She lived independently, but still had the support of a youth worker whom she met regularly.
“Once settled, I started setting realistic goals for myself,” she said.
“I studied and completed my certificate three in children’s services and set up a life for myself.
“Over the course of being 16, the confidence I had in myself grew. I had learned to accept help where needed and how to help others.”
Now 18, Brooke and her partner, Lee Eugarde, 21, have a beautiful three-month-old son, Noah, and live at Suffolk Park.
With Noah in her arms and Lee standing beside her, she confidently told last Wednesday’s gathering she was working towards a higher career.
“The youth house directed me in the path where today I am proud to say I am a capable parent, a caring friend and a confident young woman,” she said.
“Thank you to the youth house team. Keep up the good work. Much appreciated.”
Byron Bay Youth House has been operating for more than 20 years and is the only facility of its kind in the region supporting young people who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless.
Co-ordinator Angela Ward said up to 200 young people aged between 16 and 24 were accommodated at the house annually.
About 80 per cent of them were there because of family breakdowns, said Angela.
She said they were taught basic living skills and how to live in shared accommodation, with youth workers offering family mediation, school support and referrals to other services.
Funded by the Department of Community Services and community contributions, Byron Bay Youth House is run by a management committee comprising community volunteers and Ms Ward.
Inquiries about Byron Youth House can be made to 66857264 and donations can be made to Byron Bay Youth House, PO Box 258, Byron Bay, 2481.
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