At 14, Michael* lived a troubled life with his unwell mother. “There wasn’t food in the house, so I stole her card just to buy the basics. There was no discipline or boundaries, and I was out of control and expelled from school. I couldn’t live at home, so between the ages of 14 and 16, I was homeless. Drugs are part and parcel of that life” Michael stated.
No safety. No hope. No opportunity. Barely a teenager and without access to the basic human rights of food and shelter, his life was at risk. Michael exclaims “Being homeless is dangerous. There was an attempt on my life and every day was a struggle. I became dependent on drugs to deal with everything going on around me and I eventually developed a psychotic disorder and was hospitalised.” Once discharged, and still homeless, Michael turned to couch surfing. This was no safer than living on the streets, with a further terrifying assault leaving him an exceptionally vulnerable and broken young man.
Most Australian children haven’t even finished year 10 by this time in Michael’s life. Michael was full of hurt, and it was going to get worse before he reached a turning point. Michael says “Although I was now being treated for a serious mental illness, the doctor wasn’t keeping track of my medication, so I ended up with a Valium addiction. The paranoia and delusions kept coming so I drank more and more to quieten these destructive voices”.
Another violent episode finally made Michael realise he needed help. A family member stepped in, Michaels Grandma. As a registered nurse, she skilfully weaned him from his acute dependencies at her home. Michael then applied to enter Triple Care Farm.
“The farm was a safe place to recover. It is very scary when you arrive, but in time you don’t want to leave. There is this sense of community, that you’re all in it together. Our stories may be different, but our goals are the same.”
Michael had found the safety, hope and opportunity he’d been searching for. Triple Care Farm provided routine and structure, and combined with appropriate accommodation and he had time to engage in the holistic, innovative, and evidence-based programs. His healing had begun, “Having a sense of purpose and responsibility had been missing my whole life. During the program I came to depend on it as part of my recovery” Michael said happily. He had hope and a renewed sense of worth. “I was no longer afraid to be my own person. I knew I could do anything I put my mind to”. Michael spent time in the recording studio at Triple Care Farm. He didn’t know it then, but the opportunity to reconnect with his first love – music – would lead him towards tertiary study and an exciting career path.
“You only fail if you give up. Every young person who arrives at Triple Care Farm has a story.”
Michael’s story was one of family breakdown, homelessness, neglect, violence, mental illness and drug addiction, all before the age of 18. “I probably would have been in jail or possibly even dead without Triple Care Farm.” At the very least, I would have been wasting this precious life. Thanks to donors, help was there when he asked for it. That help continued after he left Triple Care Farm, with the bond between Michael and his Aftercare worker Kurt still being very tight to this day. Despite the challenges of his life, Michael’s strength and determination is humbling.
The resilience of this young man is incredible, and Michael has continued to rebuild his life. Despite not finishing high school, he is in the third year of his university degree at the Conservatorium of Music, lives independently with his loving girlfriend and has a renewed relationship with his mother.
*Name and image changed to protect identity.