"When you have an addiction people can try to help you, but you have to be ready to do it yourself."

Posted on 10 October 2018 by Louise Carson

On 10 October, people around the world will mark World Homelessness Day to raise awareness of homelessness and draw attention to the needs of the homeless people in their countries, cities and towns.

MacKillop provides homelessness services in Sydney including the Blacktown Hills Youth Homelessness program which supports young people aged 16-25 years who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. One young woman, Skye, came to live in a MacKillop property after she was referred by the Nepean Hospital’s drug and alcohol addiction team.

“Four years ago I had finished school and my boyfriend at the time encouraged me to try ice”, said Skye who is now 22 years’ old. “I didn’t really understand how dangerous the drug could be and from that first hit I was completely addicted. I craved it every day. I spent all my savings on the drug, some money my Grandma had given me and even stole from my Mum and Dad. That’s when Dad asked me to leave home. He couldn’t trust me anymore.”

Skye was sad and frightened. She was in a downhill spiral that was getting worse. Local authorities and hospitals had provided some support, but Skye kept finding herself back on the streets, looking for her next hit and money to fund her drug use.

“All my energy went into sourcing ice. I didn’t eat or sleep properly, I used to walk the streets for hours filling in time. Sometimes, with my boyfriend, we slept in a friend’s caravan, couch surfed, or slept in a park.

“We did try rehab without success. That’s when a counsellor from Nepean Hospital’s drug and alcohol addiction team referred us to MacKillop Family Services.”

Skye and her boyfriend were placed with the Blacktown Hills Youth Homelessness Service. Even though Skye broke up with her boyfriend, she continued to stay with MacKillop and lived in two supported properties for six months.

The first priorities for MacKillop case workers, Michelle Jolly and Brittni Davies, were to build Skye’s physical and mental strengths.

“When Skye arrived she was under-weight so we needed to build her physical strength in a safe and stable environment”, said Michelle. “Then we worked on reducing her ice addiction and improving her mental health. MacKillop uses the Sanctuary Model to underpin its therapeutic services, so together with Skye we developed a Safety Plan and helped her recognise her past trauma so she could begin to heal.

“Skye would make ‘waves’ of progress. She would be clean for a week or two and then relapse. This impacted her mental stability and ability to make positive changes to move forward.

“But we kept on supporting her the whole time. When she left MacKillop accommodation, her Dad agreed to have her back home if she stopped using drugs.”

“This time I was ready to stay clean”, said Skye. “When you have an addiction people can try to help you, but you have to be ready to do it yourself.

“I had a new boyfriend who didn’t use drugs and he really encouraged me to get clean. I went cold turkey, which was incredibly difficult. But I kept at it and didn’t use again. Michelle and Brittni would send me encouraging texts and phone calls saying ‘Keep going, you’ve got this’. When I was a year clean they threw a party for me at the MacKillop office. I felt so proud of myself and it encouraged me to keep going.”

“We never gave up on Skye”, said Brittni. “We wanted her to succeed in staying clean and moving forward in her life. We knew she had so much to give, that she could be so much more than someone drug-addicted sleeping in a park.

“When she moved back home she dug her heels in and started climbing that mountain.

“Now she is clean, working, she got her driver’s licence and has bought her own car. We still provide case management for her mental health and we have referred her to a local clinic for psychiatric appointments and a course in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Skye has reconnected with her Dad and family and – most importantly – she has reconnected with herself.

“Our hopes for Skye are for her to keep moving forward and focus on her future. It blows our minds how determined she was to get clean and how much she has achieved in the last two years. If you are homeless and in a dark place, with the right supports and determination you can turn your life around,” Brittni said.