by Oakley Kaddish
If anyone is the personification of the phrase ‘Thank God for the Salvos’ it’s Darren. Darren spent years believing he was beyond hope and help. Like many of Australia’s 32,000 homeless kids, he had to bear the strong burden of never knowing where his next bed would be.
Darren’s mum left when he was just eight. He was shunted around foster homes where he suffered months of emotional and physical abuse that sent him into a downward spiral of drug addiction and homelessness.
“I was split up from my brother and placed in homes where I was beaten and abused. I had my first shot of heroin when I was 14 and that took away all of my thoughts and feelings of what I was going through,” he says.
It’s just one of the painful stories that are in the Salvation Army Youth Homeless Report.
“Me and my brother sold drugs to support ourselves. It was six months before someone found us,” Darren says. He was fortunate enough to be found by the Salvation Army.
The Oasis Youth Service accommodates 55 homeless teenagers every night and is regularly full. It’s The Salvation Army’s organised response to youth homelessness in Australia and is located on Crown Street in the heart of Surry Hills, a hot spot for youth who have either been forced out or have run away from home.
Oasis provides programs that offer both intervention and support for homeless and disadvantaged young people between the ages of 16 and 24.
It now also has a fleet of outreach vans that help hundreds of young people who are living on the streets by offering support and guidance.
Oasis is run by community services veteran and Salvation Army officer Captain Robbin Moulds.
A mother of two, and married to Captain Paul Moulds, also a Salvation Army officer, Robbin and her husband have worked with disadvantaged people for many years and believe it is only through community that people can find fulfillment.
“Many of these homeless and disadvantaged young people have suffered physical, sexual, emotional and substance abuse, and have no immediate or extended family support systems. What happens to each of them while they are living on the streets is as complicated and painful as how they arrived there,” she says.
Since becoming Salvation Army officers Robbin and Paul Moulds have created Streetlevel Mission, a ministry that reaches out to the marginalised people who live on the streets of inner -city Sydney. It offers a Friday night street church, internet cafe, showers, food market, clothing, growth groups and prayer ministry. Most significantly it seeks to build a community.
Streetlevel Mission featured in the documentary called The Oasis that tracks the dangers and devastations of life on the street for homeless youth.
Darren’s life and hardships are documented in the film. “The documentary shows me at some of my worst moments,” he says.
Darren first met Paul when he was just a boy sleeping in a hole in the wall of a lane near Oasis. He had been homeless for 10 years and had also been in and out of gaol.
“But there was someone and one organisation that never gave up hope for me, that always believed in me. That was Paul Moulds and the Salvation Army,” Darren says.
He is proud to have broken the cycle of his homelessness and with the support of Oasis, has held his apartment for over two years and is an enthusiastic spokesperson for the youth program.
“I am grateful for what has been given to me and I am trying to give back. I cannot work yet because of the things I am going through, but I help Paul out, like collecting for the Red Shield appeal or telling my story or helping at Oasis,” he says.
The Salvation Army has planned a new initiative called The Couch Project aimed at raising funds and creating awareness on the issue of youth homelessness.
The idea is that people will invite friends and family members to spend the night on their couch, as many of Australia’s teenagers are forced to do night after night, as a fund-raiser for the project.
“We are urging people to spend a night on the couch so that 14,000 young Australians don’t have to,” Robbin Moulds says.
The event will take place on Friday June 8, and has raised $12,312 to date.
More information can be found at http://www.salvos.org.au/oasis