If life were truly like the books we love, most would have happy endings. As general manager of Gladstone’s Roseberry Community Services, Colleen hopes to provide her kids with new chapters for their stories.
“When you’re talking to people they want the nice story, but our kids don’t come from good stories,” said Colleen. “You can’t rosy it up – but we’re getting them back on track to better their lives.”
Jack’s House is one of the ways Colleen and her team help create better endings. Housing up to six teenagers at any one time, the house provides short-term accommodation for young people who’re enduring homelessness or are in crisis.
“We have our “Frequent Flyers,” they come and they go and then they come back for a while,” Colleen explained. “It’s good to know they see us as a safe haven. They see our workers as a familiar person that they can come back and count on. So that’s a good thing.”
The Jack’s House program, which is supported by the Coca-Cola Australia Foundation, is run in concert with initiatives that help develop life-skills. Transition to Independent Living, for example, helps young people gain - and maintain - their own rental tenancies. Another program, Branch Out, encourages kids to go back to school or find employment.
“We talk about this transition to independence, so living on their own is a good way to get them back on to the track of living a good life,” said Colleen. “So the program of independence is budgeting, cooking, hygiene – they don’t come naturally to anyone, they need to be learned.”
And while the stories of Jack’s House residents might not start well, there certainly are tales of success. “We’ve had lots of kids living at the shelter that get through to Year 12 and go on to university and make real successes of their lives,” said Colleen. “I take my hat off to kids that can rise up through adversity. They’re the kids that are the real heroes.”