These past few days have probably been some of the most “eye opening” days for me personally throughout our entire trip. We’ve been visiting Captain Paul Moulds and the Oasis Youth Support Network – a network of people and services that help the thousands of young people living on Sydney’s streets each night. Unfortunately, homelessness is a real problem in Australia and its cities, as it is in many major cities all over the world. Over 32,000 people under the age of 25 are homeless every night and the numbers are only growing. Luckily, there are wonderful people like Captain Moulds and many others at Oasis who have dedicated their lives to helping these young people, giving them a chance at changing their lives by just being there for them and listening, as my mom elaborated on previously. And while I have certainly been inspired by Paul and his Oasis colleagues, what has impacted me the most has been talking with the kids.
In the past few days, I have gotten to meet several of them and hear their stories – one heartbreaking story after another. Pasts full of abandonment, sexual abuse, drugs, prostitution, sleeping on the streets, being forced to steal food to survive. I watched a young man cry, as he explained how he didn’t have a home because his mom had chosen prostitution over him. I sat and listened to another person describe the numerous ways he has tried to kill himself, without even blinking an eye. One girl showed me her enormous scar running down her back where she had been stabbed while trying to stop a street fight. As horrific as these stories are, what has really affected me is the fact that these people are my peers – many of them are the same age as me. And yet they have already experienced so much pain and neglect, more than I can even imagine. They dream of just having one person they can count on, knowing that there’s someone who cares about them – something I definitely have taken for granted.
This experience has certainly made me reflect on my life and the things that I am very fortunate to have. Two parents who have given me the moon and the stars, and who have supported me in every way. Friends and loved ones who I know I can trust and count on in any situation. A bed to sleep in every night. An education and options for employment. The freedom to choose my own life path. It’s so important to remember that there are many people who don’t have any of these things and don’t believe that they ever will.
I’m happy that say that there is certainly hope for alleviating youth homelessness here in Sydney, thanks to people like Paul who actually do acknowledge and care about the issue. Having that human connection, a person to trust, a person who will listen and be there for you – that certainly is the key, and I’ve seen the results firsthand. I’ve heard many of the kids say that if it weren’t for Paul and the people at Oasis, who listened to their stories and helped them get through each day as they worked through their problems, they would be dead right now. Instead, they’ve started new lives – going to school, getting a job, pursuing a musical career, educating others on the problems of youth homelessness. In fact, we attended an event tonight that was put on by a young guy who went through several Oasis programs, and who recently started his own entertainment business – six months ago he was homeless, with no hopes or dreams in sight. It’s quite amazing to see the power of the human connection and how knowing that someone cares about you can make all the difference in the world.