Carmel Groffen is a Case Manager with Centacare’s Outer North Youth Homelessness Service. Inspired to give back to the community she grew up in, Carmel supports young people living in transitional and emergency housing across the north.

We are like warriors I guess. We’re there, every day, on the frontline, pushing through all the systems and inequality and structure to try and get our clients through to the other side.

I can support the young people across any of the life domains. Anything that a young person identifies they want help with, I am willing to try and extend myself to provide.

It’s about their goals and where they see themselves in the future.

The young people have taught me a lot about patience. You learn so much from them, about their culture, their life. To have someone share that with you is really special.

Most of the young people we work with don’t have much at all and it’s the little things that are special to them which we often take for granted.

That’s a good reminder for all of us. Being able to work and have a roof over my head and provide for my family is a privilege.

Every individual has a story so you can’t pigeonhole homelessness.

It’s not the stereotypical person you see on a park bench that the movies portray. Your next door neighbour could be someone who’s homeless.

You have those days when its 4pm in the afternoon and you have a young person crying on the end of the phone saying `I have nowhere to go tonight’ and you’re saying, `I’m so sorry, I don’t have an answer for you today’ and that’s something as workers we have to live with a lot.

We get to go home to our beds every night and these young people don’t.

There are so many things that people don’t realise that factor in their situation.

It’s not just because they don’t want to live at home because of the rules. They might have a family that’s dysfunctional or unsafe, or they might not have a family at all.

We’ve had situations where young people’s parents have passed away and they have ended up in the system because they can’t stay on in the family home.

Sometimes they are homeless but they’re still trying to care for their siblings.

That’s something I really wish the Government could see and witness – what it’s like to sit at the forefront of homelessness.

It’s hard work but it’s rewarding work. You are dealing with raw emotion every day and sometimes you are sitting there just listening. That can be hard too, because sometimes you do want to jump in and respond, but you have to learn patience and flexibility.

Giving young people a voice is one of the reasons why I chose this field. I’ve been with Centacare for eight years in the Outer North Youth Homeless Service and I’m still passionate about the work.

This program is constantly changing and evolving. We are always trying to create a better quality of service for our clients.

We look for their strengths and how we can support them. Sometimes our service might not be the best one for them so we work with others services that can meet their needs.

We’ve definitely started to share the load more.

Sometimes a young person will be referred to us and we know nothing about them. We don’t know their story but before they’ve even met you, they might have told their story five or six times already.

At Centacare, we’ve really embraced trauma informed practice. We focus on the strengths and roll forward without that young person having to backtrack because that’s what can retrigger their trauma.

As a team, we really band together. We are like individual bits of a jigsaw puzzle that fit perfectly together. We all have different skill sets that we bring so we can be there for our clients.