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Some of our brave young people have agreed to share their stories. Unfortunately most have experienced family breakdowns, violence, abuse or deprivation.

It’s stories like the ones below that remind us how important a loving home can be.
(Some names have been changed to protect identities).

 

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“When I read the pamphlet about Living at Lighthouse, I cried. I knew it was the place for me, exactly what I needed.

I’m Paige and this is my story.

When I was eight, I knew I wasn’t part of a normal family. We often ended up stealing to survive or living in crisis refuges or transitional housing. At Christmas, I would always worry about how this holiday would turn out. There were always more drugs and more angry episodes at this time of year and I was scared that we would end up homeless again.

A housing worker mentioned a place called Lighthouse to me and when I read the pamphlet I cried. I knew it was exactly what I wanted. I hoped it could be the family I never had. The night before I moved into a Lighthouse home, I was so excited, I barely slept a wink. I knew this would become my first real home.

I thought everyone was playing tricks on me when I first moved into Lighthouse. Whenever I’d visit the Youth Resource Centre all of the carers and staff were happy to see me. I thought everyone would be talking about me behind my back, but they weren’t. I realised they were genuine people who cared about me.

I learnt a lot about respectful relationships at Lighthouse. The hard thing for me was letting go of control and being allowed to be a kid again. My psychologist and carers helped me let go of the guilt of being responsible and playing the role of an adult as a kid. They took me to the movies, to the beach and I remember a trip to the Melbourne show where I was free to be a kid for the first time in my life.

Before I moved in my Christmases always ended up in tears. One year I remember spending Christmas night in hospital looking after my mum, and a lot of the time, the day ended in yelling and fighting.

My first Christmas at Lighthouse was the best day ever. It was the Christmas I’d always dreamed of, the one I saw on TV, the one I fantasised about all of my childhood. A big meal, people talking, happy music, a present for everyone – it just felt happy. All of my childhood dreams had come true.

I’ve met some of the strongest and best people I have known in my life at Lighthouse. My carers have been there for me every step of the way. They are my inspiration and have helped me to achieve so much.

Now that I have completed high school, I’ve been awarded a scholarship to study and I know my life has changed. I’m determined to make something of myself. My goal is to work at Lighthouse as a Social Worker or maybe even be the Director of Care one day.”

Love Paige

 

 

Read more stories below:

Liana's Story

 Liana was raised in a family situation where she was constantly moved around, and slept mainly in the car with her mother and younger siblings. Her mother had fled from a violent relationship and had severe depression. Despite her best efforts, she wasn’t able to care for her young family. Liana was often left in charge of her brother and sister for extended periods while her mother tried to raise money … any way she could.

Social workers moved Liana into a foster care family when she was 13, but she didn’t settle and bond with her foster carers. She skipped school repeatedly and acted out her angry feelings against her foster family. She eventually ran away at age 15 and after couch surfing at friends’ houses, she experienced incidences of sexual abuse. She felt like a worthless human being and began to harm herself and engage in high risk behavior. She was referred to Lighthouse by a social worker at an emergency refuge, due to her young age and the danger of further self-harm.

Liana spent a year with Lighthouse, during which time she was able to complete Year Ten and begin VCE. She connected well with her carer and enjoyed taking her turn at cooking and, unusually for a teenager, being responsible for household chores. She became very proud of her Lighthouse home and enjoyed the Friday nights when past residents would come back for a family meal.

A family reunion was carefully monitored by the Lighthouse Care team, and she was ultimately able to be reunited with her aunt, and begin a new life in a country town in Victoria. She is now completing Year 12, and remains in contact with the Lighthouse team through the Outreach support program. With their psychological support, she has negotiated a new relationship with her mother, who now is doing better personally, and is considering relocation to the same town with Liana’s two siblings.

James's Story

Seventeen year old James came to Lighthouse after a period of homelessness in which he moved around various emergency shelters and refuges, and slept in a car with a friend. He found himself alone after his single mother, who had complex mental health issues and drug addictions, moved in with a new partner. James, who had endured abuse for a long time within his own home, wasn’t welcome in the new living arrangement.

Lighthouse provided a secure and safe family home in which James could rest and recover, and get some medical attention for his health issues. With unhappy past school experiences, and very low confidence, he was reluctant to return to school, and after several months, and several attempts at re-entering school, his Lighthouse Carer then focused on assisting him into beginning a TAFE training course which will qualify him to gain work in Aged Care.

Now almost 19, James is taking longer than the usual time to complete his training certificate, and he will need a great deal of further support to gain his qualification. He is shining in the hands-on work placement elements, but is struggling with the written assignments, and in the demands of meeting time commitments. There are many positives to his situation, as he is gradually learning to manage the routines of getting himself to and from his study, and he is taking better care of himself.

For James, coming into the Lighthouse program has enabled him to get the psychological counselling he needed, in order to deal with the traumas of his past. His future is looking hopeful, and his Lighthouse Carers will be there beside him, helping him make each step towards the life he deserves.

 

Harriet’s story:

Harriet grew up in a single parent home in Western Australia. She didn’t feel close to her three sisters and in her mid-teens she started acting up and having difficulties at home. “In October 2012, I was sent to live with my father in Victoria. My mother thought she made the decision that was best for me. I struggled with the move, I struggled to adapt to everything that I was presented with in Melbourne. On top of these struggles, my father was sexually abusing me. He made me feel trapped and fear for my life. He was controlling and even tried to kill me.
In 2014, I finally disclosed to a school counsellor and they assisted my move into a youth refuge, then the youth refuge referred me to Lighthouse.” She was matched with our carers and other young people living in the Lighthouse Bonbeach home.

“I had some of my darkest times in the early days of Lighthouse. I was going through court and I began to face severe mental illness. I felt like something was wrong with me, but now I realise it was because I was finally safe. My Lighthouse carers helped me through my problems and were always great shoulders to cry on. The safety of a home meant that I could finally relax, I could finally put doors in my walls and let people in, and that was what Lighthouse allowed me to do. They reminded me that I was special every time I felt worthless.
I had everything a person needs. I had a family that loved me, supported me and cared through thick and thin. And they still do.”

After 14 months living in the Bonbeach home, Harriet was able to transition into independent living in 2016.“Now, I’m living in my own house, successfully running my own household. It’s tough sometimes, but Lighthouse taught me that I can do anything if I set my mind to it. I honestly can’t imagine where I would have ended up without Lighthouse.”

Harriet has blossomed into a confident, resilient young woman and is still very connected into Lighthouse through our Outreach program. She is living independently and enjoys playing rugby with a local club.