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Kaylee puts her life back on track

NEW LEASE ON LIFE: Youth worker Kristin Luva (left) with Kaylee Thomas.
NEW LEASE ON LIFE: Youth worker Kristin Luva (left) with Kaylee Thomas. Iain Curry

WITH nowhere else to turn, Kaylee Thomas was filled with fear when she stepped into the youth crisis shelter.

She was only 16 and had already been in and out of foster care when she found herself homeless.

She didn't know what to expect or how much more she could handle.

"When I was nine I was put into foster care and stayed until I was 14, then I returned home," Kaylee said.

"I went through a honeymoon stage where things were really good for the first few months, but things went downhill.

"After two years, things weren't working out, so I moved in with my old foster carer, but not through the foster carer system, and it was a bit of a messy situation."

Kaylee and her foster carer's granddaughter became embroiled in an argument and Kaylee moved out.

"I had to find somewhere else to stay," she said.

"I was homeless for a few weeks, staying with friends. Nothing was permanent so I turned to the shelter."

Kaylee said her two older sisters had stayed at the Integrated Family and Youth Service youth crisis accommodation in Maroochydore when they were younger and told her it was the "best place to be".

"At first I was really scared," she said.

"I didn't know what it would be like, but everyone was really nice.

"The rules were so strict. I always felt safe.

"It was a good environment."

Kaylee stayed at the shelter for about five weeks, before the service helped her find long-term housing through Coast2Bay Housing Group.

"They also helped me with fitting out my unit and getting me a couch, microwave, crockery and all the essentials," she said.

For the past seven months, the Chancellor State College Grade 12 student has lived independently, working as a gymnastics coach every afternoon to pay bills and put herself through high school.

"It's been hard but the accommodation is good," she said.

Kaylee is also completing her Certificate III in community services work and hopes to volunteer or become a youth worker.

"Given my experience, it intrigued me (to go) into that area of work," she said.

"I want to help them (others) through it."

During Homeless Persons' Week from August 4-10, the State Government recognises those Queenslanders who have beaten homelessness.

Minister for Housing and Public Works Tim Mander said Kaylee's inspirational story showed the benefits of case management in overcoming homelessness.

"Too often we stereotype the homeless, but remarkable young people like Kaylee are living proof that not only can it happen to anyone, but that it can be overcome with the right support," he said.

IFYS accommodation services co-ordinator Tania Larter said Kaylee was driven, breaking the stereotype of young homeless people.

"As a service, we are privileged to meet many amazing young people and as workers, we wish the community could see the calibre of our service users," she said.

Contact Integrated Family and Youth Service on 5438 3000, Coast2Bay on 5451 2900, or visit the Queensland Government website http://www.qld.gov.au/housing for inquiries.

Topics:  editors picks foster care homelessness



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