From homeless youth to university graduate

“We know that you will continue to move forward and we know that you have the determination to make things happen for yourself.”

These were some of the parting words in a hand-written letter from Carinity Orana staff given to Dylia* when she moved out of the Brisbane homelessness shelter.

Dylia kept the letter and its words of encouragement have inspired her to achieve some of her life goals.

After living at the Carinity Orana homelessness shelter when she was 16, Dylia is now a university graduate.
After living at the Carinity Orana youth homelessness shelter as a teenager, Dylia* is now a university graduate. Photo by Tim Mossholder.

Now 23, she has just graduated from the Queensland University of Technology with a dual degree in Social Work and Justice – during National Homelessness Week.

Dylia lived at Carinity Orana for four months when she was 16, after being referred there by another homelessness service. She was buoyed by the “very positive environment” at the youth home in Bald Hills.

“Previously I had bad experiences with homelessness services and was told to be grateful to have a bed. The best thing about Orana was, although there are rules and expectations, I didn’t feel so overwhelmed,” Dylia said.

“All the workers were supportive, and I liked the fact that they actually worked with us to achieve something. They were never judgemental, and I never felt I had been shamed about my life choices.

“I was trying to figure myself out. I was 16. I had only recently run away from home. They helped me to open up and figure out what I want to do with my life.”

Carinity Orana, which is celebrating 40 years supporting homeless youth and those at risk of becoming homeless, offers average stays of six months to people aged from 16 to 21 years.

Youth workers support residents to access counselling, develop new social networks, and secure education, training, employment and more permanent accommodation.

With the support of Carinity Orana, Dylia completed a certificate course in business studies which led to further study and eventually her enrolment at university. She also moved into long-term accommodation at nearby Strathpine.

After she found herself homeless at 16, Carinity Orana youth workers supported Dylia to her take her life into a more positive direction.
After she found herself homeless at 16, Carinity Orana youth workers supported Dylia to her take her life into a more positive direction.

“Without the Certificate I couldn’t have gone on to my Diploma and then to university. They made me feel I was able to do it,” Dylia said.

Dylia believes she “would have not had time to build self-confidence” and pursued her career goals if she hadn’t have stayed at Carinity Orana.

“I had a lot of positive experiences at Orana, and I am happy that I was given those experiences,” she said.

Dylia’s advice to young people experiencing homelessness or facing struggles in their life is: “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and take chances.”

“If you can overcome homelessness, you’ve already done something incredibly difficult,” she explained.

“If you want to take up a passion or become a doctor, you’re no less talented than anyone else – and at this point you’re likely to be a lot more resourceful and tough. You are no less deserving of working towards a dream or goal than anyone else.”


* For privacy reasons, name has been changed and a stock photo used.

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