Turning young lives around with unconditional love
When self-confessed “frustrated naughty kid” Corey Gieskens was 12 years old he was kicked out of home.
Coming from a “very dysfunctional” family life, Corey “bounced between” his separated parents from the age of five. Approaching his teenage years, he was getting “pretty rough around the edges” and was involved in “some pretty ordinary activity”.
“I was wagging school for a few weeks straight, being really naughty to get attention, and I thought that was a way my father would give it to me,” Corey said.
“One day I came home and my dad had packed up my bedroom, put all the boxes in the back of the car and took me to the local police station.
“He told a policeman he would drive the car until the petrol tank was half empty and that’s where he was going to leave me, unless the police found somewhere for me to stay.”
Corey ended up moving into Carinity Orana, a house at Bald Hills in north Brisbane which is celebrating 40 years of supporting homeless youth and those at risk of homelessness. Corey spent just over a year living there.
Today, Carinity Orana can cater for up to five residents aged 16 to 21 years at any one time, offering an average stay of six months.
“It was initially a bit scary as a lot of the other kids that were there were a lot more hardened and older,” Corey recalls.
“Having youth workers in the house who were there to encourage me regardless of whether I was naughty or not was great, and I attended school the whole time I was there.
“I was very happy there as I was getting the attention that I was craving. I felt loved and I felt really supported there. Up until then I hadn’t felt that in my life. That unconditional love was very foreign to me.”
Carinity Orana was the “place of seed-sowing” that led Corey to a more positive future, including establishing a relationship with God.
He worshipped at the former Lawnton Baptist Church, which helped establish Carinity Orana as Pine Rivers Youth Service’s ‘Hassall House’ in 1981, and ended up moving in with people from a local church.
Were it not for Carinity Orana, Corey believes he would have “fought to survive” and likely ended up in prison.
Corey went on to become a teacher at Pine Rivers State High School – the very school at which he was a troublesome disengaged truant a few decades earlier.
“The school that I was at during my time at Orana, I actually went back to as a teacher and some of the staff who taught me were still there. The comments around that time were that people were surprised I wasn’t in prison,” Corey said.
“Apart from being a school teacher, I’ve been very active helping young people outside of school and I’ve helped many, many homeless kids through youth groups.”
Around 60 per cent of homeless Australians are under the age of 35. On World Homeless Day on October 10, Corey’s advice for young people facing homelessness is to “accept help, don’t give up hope and know God’s got a better path for you”.
“Often someone who’s estranged from their parents and homeless has been rejected, so I think it’s very important for young people to know that God hasn’t rejected them,” he said.