Hundreds of college students on journey towards aha! moment in fight against youth homelessness

Dec 13, 2019

Over the past eight years, the Dean of Reidy House at St Joseph’s Gregory Terrace, Rob Johnson, has taken great pride and joy in bursting bubbles. Arming them with little more than a sleeping bag, a cup of soup and a night spent outside, Mr Johnson has led hundreds of high school boys towards their own aha! moment, watching as they suddenly get a sense of what life is like for a young person who is homeless.

“It’s important the students learn to be non-judgmental, as they can never truly know someone’s story; they can never truly know what it is like to walk in another person’s shoes,” Mr Johnson said.

“Our relationship with Brisbane Youth Service (BYS) is akin to friendship rather than charity; there is mutuality. In the College’s Catholic tradition, we are taught to respect the dignity of every person and working with BYS allows us to put this lesson into practice.”

Reidy House boys recently took part in the College’s annual Rough Night In. Now in its fifth year, the event helps students to gain an understanding of what it is like for a young person to sleep rough by spending the night outside on school grounds, using basic gym matting for bedding and being given ‘rations’.

“The Rough Night In aims to get boys out of their ‘bubble’.  Many of the boys who are students at the College come from privileged backgrounds; they have food, a warm bed and safe home environment,” Mr Johnson said.

“The event is an opportunity for younger students to develop empathy for those community members who are experiencing homelessness and disadvantage. As the boys get older, they can better understand the complexities of homelessness and its contributing factors.

“One of the most valuable aspects of the night is for the boys to skip dinner and only have a cup of soup. Another is hearing from BYS youth workers about the work they do and to help the students understand the issues impacting vulnerable young people.”

As a part of St Joseph’s College Gregory Terrace, Reidy House has raised almost $25,000 for young people experiencing disadvantage and homelessness since 2011. By hosting annual fundraising events, Reidy has led the charge for other Brisbane school communities to work with BYS to help create new futures for young people.

Reidy House was recently announced as BYS’s first official partner under its new School Community Partners Program. The program engages local schools to work with BYS to help raise awareness and funds while encouraging social awareness and responsibility among students.

“Reidy is very proud of its ongoing association with BYS. We could look further afield at social justice issues, but youth homelessness is one existing in our community right now. There is also the chance that in the future the boys may find themselves in difficult circumstances and it is important for them to know that there is support available in the community,” Mr Johnson said.

The Rough Night In aims to get boys out of their ‘bubble’.  Many of the boys who are students at the College come from privileged backgrounds; they have food, a warm bed and safe home environment.

BYS CEO Annemaree Callander said the work and generosity of Reidy House highlights the power of the community to help to change the lives of vulnerable young people across Brisbane.

“After many years working together, BYS is  delighted to officially partner with  St Joseph’s College Gregory Terrace as a part of its new School Community Partner Program,” Ms Callander said.

“Reidy House’s support has been invaluable to us, and together we’re excited to continue working to create a difference to the lives of young people who are in crisis or experiencing homelessness.

“With support from BYS  most  young people we assist can move out of crisis, but we need donations and support to provide long term housing and assistance.

“Working together, we can raise vital funds, spread awareness and advocate for change to create better and brighter futures for young people being impacted by homelessness and disadvantage, so they overcome life challenges and thrive in the community. ”