AUSTRALIA: Youth in need served by comprehensive network
Salesian-run Youth Off the Streets provides services to more than 3,700 youth each year
(MissionNewswire) Youth Off the Streets, a Salesian program in Sydney, Australia, provides services to more than 3,700 youth each year. The program was started 30 years ago by Father Chris Riley as a comprehensive service network for at-risk youth.
Throughout his career, Fr. Riley has worked as a teacher, youth worker, probation officer, residential care person and school principal. He has always believed that there is no such thing as a child born bad, but instead youth face harmful environments, circumstances, and families that can negatively impact them and their behavior.
Fr. Riley’s vision was to empower youth experiencing disadvantages by providing positive options to help them build a better future for themselves. From modest beginnings, Fr. Riley spent three decades growing Youth Off the Streets into a leading non-denominational youth services organization.
Don Bosco House, the program’s first refuge in Sydney’s Inner West, opened its doors in April 1991. In 1996, Fr. Riley opened the Key College in Redfern, the first Youth Off the Streets high school for youth who had become disconnected from mainstream education. Fr. Riley went on to expand educational services within Youth Off the Streets to include six accredited independent high schools across Greater Sydney, the Illawarra region and the NSW Central Coast.
Fr. Riley also developed and implemented innovative strategies to help youth deal with trauma, abuse, and neglect. Many of these strategies have been adopted by schools and government agencies across Australia. Youth Off the Streets now offers a wide range of integrated support services and programs for youth and their families. These services are delivered by more than 200 staff and a community of over 330 dedicated volunteers.
The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Lex Lutherborrow, the chief executive of Youth Off the Streets, in a recent “Homeless Week” article where she said family breakdown and conflict more broadly, not necessarily including violence, was the biggest driver of youth homelessness. “Young people tend not to be the ones that you see on the street. They’re either in temporary accommodation or crisis accommodation shelters or sleeping in cars or tents or they couch-surf, staying with a friend or extended family until they outstay their welcome.”
Salesians in Australia and around the globe provide social support and education so that vulnerable and at-risk youth can find shelter, have their basic needs met and gain the skills for later employment so they can become productive members of their communities.
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