Dave dedicated to supporting homeless youth
Dave McNair is celebrating 20 years working for Baptist care organisations including the last 15 years at the Carinity Orana shelter for homeless youth in Brisbane. He talks about his work supporting homeless and at-risk youth.
What inspired you to support homeless young people?
When I was at high school, I did work experience with Youth with a Mission and volunteered in a church community café. This opened my eyes to another side of Sydney I had never been exposed to. I felt drawn to help and get to know the characters that frequented this café. At the same time, I watched the ABC documentary Nobody’s Children which traced the lives of six street kids. I discovered that one of them attended my youth group. I had no idea about his story. I wanted to know how people ended up in this situation and if there was a way out.
What are the most gratifying aspects of your work at Carinity Orana?
For many people homelessness is a result of breakdown in family relationship, long-term unemployment, mental health issues and substance abuse issues. It is gratifying being able to support people to find their own inner strengths and resources which can help them to make positive choices to grow and change for the better.
Is it hard to be approachable to Carinity Orana residents yet not become too emotionally attached?
The important thing to learn about youth work is not to be a saviour or rescuer. It is about walking alongside young people, identifying their own unique strengths and resources, and presenting options and choices so they can make informed choices in their life.
Carinity Orana is more than an accommodation for teenagers. What else do you do to support young people and point them towards a better future?
The youth work team has saying that “you own your own stay while you at Orana”. This means that we want the young people to find out what they want individually to focus on. This may mean maintaining at school or holding down a job. It could be focusing on their living skills or mental health and well-being. We find it really helps if they have some ownership and some buy in around what they want to achieve.
What are some positive outcomes for young people who have been in Carinity Orana’s care?
When supporting young people it is important to understand that success is not linear. It may be that positive change occurs two steps forward and one step backward. It may be measured in ways that we tend to overlook or take for granted like turning up and trying your best. It is about how you respond when things don’t go your way. There have been so many young people who have gone on to good things.
What is it like when you hear a former resident is doing well in their life?
The youth work team gets such a thrill. It really reminds us of the important work we do and helps us to keep going, and that it is well worth it. I have learnt so many things from the young people over the years, especially how they have overcome adversity. Their resilience really shines through.