Main Image: Carinity Orana Program Manager Dave McNair with former managers Nikki Brown, Helen Ford and Kim Bertwhistle at the house in Bald Hills which has supported around 6,000 homeless young people.
For thousands of young people, a modest house in northern Brisbane has been the home they didn’t have.
It was established as Pine Rivers Youth Service’s ‘Hassall House’ in Lawnton in 1981 and relocated to its current premises in Bald Hills the following year.
Operating like a family home, Carinity Orana can cater for up to five residents aged 16 to 21 years at any one time, offering a maximum stay of six months.
“Young people often come to us in crisis and we help them to become stable and start to help them to move forward in their lives”, Carinity Orana Program Manager Dave McNair says.
“Our youth workers assist young people to access education, training, employment, counselling services, recreational activities, new social networks and permanent accommodation.
“It is about helping young people to achieve stability in their lives so they can follow and pursue their passions and interests, and in doing so give them hope for the future.”
An estimated 6,000 young people have stayed in Carinity Orana’s emergency housing and accessed education and training – to provide a pathway to a more positive future.
Former Orana manager Nikki Brown relished supporting at-risk youth to go down a different road in their life, which she says was challenging, yet gratifying.
“It was very real and very raw but a privilege to care for kids that weren’t wanted. Some residents didn’t have any family at all, so I thought it was appropriate to be family for them,” Nikki says.
Tracey Jones, one of four full-time Orana staff and a Carinity youth worker for 15 years, has seen a shift in the public perception of homeless youth.
“In the past the thinking was if a young person was in the homeless shelter system they were a ‘bad kid’. I know that thinking has altered,” Tracey says.
“There is now a focus on the family situations that these kids come from, in the hope that issues can be dealt with at this level before it turns into homelessness.
“My motivation to spend time with these young people is to help them recognise their strengths and abilities … and then to see them utilise these traits in their efforts to move forward positively in their lives.”
Given Carinity Orana is a short-term accommodation and crisis shelter, Nikki says staff “don’t get to see how all kids’ stories end.”
However, they often hear from adults whose lives were positively impacted when they lived at Carinity Orana as adolescents.
“Recently I had an ex-resident who we worked with for four years contact me. She sent me a message to say, ‘I never told you, but you changed the course of my life’,” Nikki says.
“I know some of the young people we worked with did not have good outcomes in life but what we did for them at Orana, you can’t take away that positive experience.
“Whatever happened later in their life, for the period of time they stayed with us they knew they had worth and they were loved.”
A function celebrating 40 years of Carinity Orana will be held at the Queensland Baptist Centre in Gaythorne on April 20.
Article supplied with thanks to Carinity.