Learning a Way Out of Homelessness

April 01, 2019

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Junction client, Gemma, and Outreach Support Worker, Shaina.

In 13 years of school, Gemma hardly missed a day – despite sleeping rough most of this time.

Now 19, Gemma, a Junction client, says going to school was her routine and education a way out.

“I’d leave my stuff in the front office and while I was in class I’d work out where I was going to stay that night,” she said. “But I never missed school. I went to school every single day.”

Sadly, homelessness was the norm for Gemma. She was placed in foster care aged one and then cared for by her father who was dealing with his own struggles.

“We moved around a lot,” she said. “Sometimes we were in our own housing, but mostly it was staying with family and sometimes, we just slept in parks."

"Eventually it got to a point where I didn’t have access to a shower or food. That’s when school intervened.”

Through the help and support of Seaford High, Gemma was linked to Mission Australia and then, Junction where she was assisted into transitional housing which enabled her not just to finish school, but do so with an ATAR above 75.

“There was a lot of collaboration between a psychologist, the school and Junction to support Gemma,” her Outreach Support Worker, Shaina, said.

"Going through year 12 with her was a pivotal but challenging journey.”

After successfully completing her first semester at University last year, Gemma is now taking some time out to “steady (her) health” before planning to return to pursue study in social work later in the year.

Shaina said she is in awe of Gemma’s resilience.

“I didn’t do things for Gemma, it was just about enabling her,” she explains. “It started with just going to Centrelink, now she’s negotiating her private rental leases on her own. It’s all her.”

“I just hadn’t been taught anything. I’m learning so much all the time, and I want to keep learning because it’s always been a positive for me,” Gemma, now living in private rental, said.

“I’m a very reflective person now, and I’m acknowledging that I have a lot to deal with and I need to stabilise my life before I go onto the next thing because I’ve never really had stability before."

"I’m still working through things, but I think I’m ok because one day, I know, it will be all good.”