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1 April 2022
Believing in the potential of young people
Over the coming months, Salvos Magazine will feature different people from all walks of life who are part of the varied work of the Salvos across the country. In this edition, to coincide with National Youth Week (4-14 April), we feature Olive Mereyato, Service Manager, Kalgoorlie-Boulder Youth Crisis Accommodation, in Western Australia.
Salvos Magazine: Can you give us an overview of your job?
Olive Mereyato: Before we get to the ‘what’, let’s talk about the ‘where’.
Kalgoorlie-Boulder is located on Wongatha Country, approximately 600km inland from Perth and four hours from the closest beach. We are a predominately gold-mining town in the middle of the desert, surrounded by red dirt and Hi-Vis workwear as far as the eye can see!
In the Gold Capital of Australia, Ilead a team of awesome youth workers in providing short-term and crisis accommodation and support to young people aged 15-24 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Part of my role is to establish and maintain key relationships within the community services sector of the region to increase the wraparound support of the young people we serve.
The other part is to manage the day-to-day running of the service.
SM: What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at work (even if that’s at home!)?
OM: The first thing Ido (either in the morning, the afternoon or the weekend) in our 24/7 service is get a comprehensive handover from my staff member onsite. This gives me insight into where our young people are sitting physically and emotionally and will impact how Iapproach the rest of the day.
SM: What can a typical day involve for you?
OM: There are not many ‘typical days’ when working with young people in crisis situations, but over a week, some regular tasks would include:
Managing staff rosters and recruiting staff.
Advocacy and liaison work with young people, including transport and support to apply for a birth certificate, Centrelink payments, driver’s licence or complete other documents for housing, education, training or employment.
Meeting with other services or agencies to increase beneficial partnerships that will improve positive outcomes for our young people.
Managing enquiries, referrals to specialised services, intakes (when a young person presents for accommodation) and exits.
Responding to emails and writing reports.
SM: What are some of the biggest challenges you face?
OM: Our current housing crisis is the most challenging part of my work. We have young people in our service who have worked to be able to manage in the community and maintain a home, but unfortunately, there is nowhere to go.
Second to that would be the broad range of reasons our young people present to us with. Unpacking trauma and the other reasons young people at risk of homelessness face can be hugely challenging. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach.
SM: What’s the most rewarding?
OM: Seeing our young people achieve their goals and become positive and contributing members of the community is absolutely the most rewarding part! With that, we often get visits from our previously accommodated young people just checking in – and sometimes introducing new partners or babies – which is always nice. It tells us that we continue to be a safe space for the community when they come and see us voluntarily.
SM: How has COVID-19 affected your work?
OM: We have been largely uninterrupted in our work here in WA … I do love that due to COVID-19, being regional no longer means we are missing out on essential training and networking opportunities as we moved so much online.
The most positive thing to come from COVID-19 is that our young people no longer share bedrooms, which has led to a more peaceful home environment.
SM: What drives/motivates you to get up each day and go to work?
OM: I’ve always been drawn to working with young people, so to be able to provide that stability and care in a young person’s life and lead a team of equally caring and supportive youth workers to provide that safe place drives me every day. Is it tough sometimes? You bet! Some days it feels like one step forward and two steps back, but seeing firsthand the difference we are making to young people in our community makes the tough days easier for sure.
SM: How do you see your work achieving the mission of the Salvos to transform lives?
OM: Everything we seek to accomplish is underpinned by The Salvation Army’s vision and mission values. What Ilove about our Youth Services WA team is that these values are not forced; they are simply affirmed every day as we do the best we can to guide and support our young people.
We believe in them and their potential until such time as their own belief kicks in. Once that happens, there is no limit to what these young people can achieve!
We do our best to keep our local mission plan at the forefront of what we do, which comes easy when it speaks to caring for people, creating faith pathways, building healthy communities, and working for justice.