Tom Black gave an astonishing speech about his time as a young homeless man and the troubles he faced. His life was turned around by Father Chris Riley and the Youth off the Streets program.
Tom decided to give back some of the good will given to him when he was in trouble by creating the Austyouth program. His current mission is to provide a number of caravans around the Riverina to be used for housing suitable homeless youth. The vans will be purchased, refurbished, made safe then strategically positioned as suitable locations around the area. Whilst homeless youth are staying in these vans they will be provided with education, budgeting advice and given the necessary information to get back on their feet.
Here’s a snippet from one of Tom’s websites
“Austyouth has grown, both in my head and in my heart, over many years.
Being the founding Director of Austyouth is a deeply rewarding experience. It allows me to do what I love, and to help people who are just like me. Many years ago, in the early 1990’s, I was a homeless youth on Sydney’s streets.
Yes – I have seen the dark side of what our young people are faced with. I bashed people, I robbed, I drank, and I took drugs. I saw people that I knew, and had shared many journeys with, forced through their own desperation to become prostitutes. Friends committed suicide, overdosed and were found lifeless with wracked expressions of suffering. I saw people turn to selling drugs and wind up with long term prison sentences. I saw the doors of homes that I could once enter turn closed, and could only look from a distance through their windows. In the end though, I was lucky enough to be helped. Someone put their hand out to me and told me that I was worth it, that my life did matter. They told me that I could have a future, a home, and, hope.
Friends around me also fled to the streets – either sleeping rough or trying to catch naps on the never ending circles of Sydney’s train system. They left for all the reasons you know but do not want to admit. They were sadistically beaten, they were raped at home, or they were forced out because of heavy drug and alcohol abuse by their caregivers. Their stories range from a girl being made live under the floor of a partially stilted family ‘home’ after the sexual abuse abated, to a lad regularly having bones broken by his frustrated adoptive father.
Like them, I ran from home and stumbled blindly into the night. I did not know what to do or where to go. The open night air just somehow seemed like the only refuge open to me. It took four months of HELL before that hand was put out – offering me hope and lifting me back up to the everyday world. My return to normal life did not happen instantly, and was a rocky road, but it was a road well worth the effort.
Like me some of my friends were saved – but others are no longer with us. In time I became a butcher and started a family. I then went on to do a second apprenticeship as a cabinet maker. Years down the track I even started a small business and ended up employing people.
I have always remembered where I have come from, and the streets that I have walked. I have wondered what would have become of me if I had of known earlier about the services and people out there all along – and that could have helped me. Would I have been to jail after robbing a place for food? Would I have had to fight to survive? Yes… street fighting for your life is a real thing that many young homeless people actually have to do. Did I really have to go through the beatings and abuse? Probably not. As a child I did not know what was out there. but now as an adult I do,
After asking friends of my children, and the wider community, I realised that still – all these years later – kids still don’t know about the help that is out there. I have started Austyouth to teach kids about services available to them and ways to prevent becoming homeless. I dream of taking my program to every school in Australia, and teaching youth that there are better ways and better days to come. We cannot reduce the growing number of homeless youth in Australia until we start to teach young people where to get the help they need, and how to survive. We need to do that before it is too late and they run blindly like I, and others that I knew, did.
I love working for Austyouth, and I will continue to do so. Every day that I try to save a young person from the darkness of walking the streets alone is a good day.”
To find out more about Austyouth or how the club is looking to help Tom, why not come along to a meeting.