Brisbane teenager Raymond* was once living in a homeless shelter with little hope for the future — that was before he found the Good Grub Club.
At just 12, Raymond — along with his sister — found their way to a homeless shelter on Brisbane’s southside after their mum was sent to jail.
“My mum went to prison and we lived with our stepdad for a bit and then he took off with our other brother,” Raymond said.
“Then we lived with our grandma and I kind of ran away from there — it all got a bit intense, so I left, and my sister followed.”
In February this year, the siblings arrived on the doorstep of Anglicare’s Insync Youth Homelessness service, which provided them with crisis accommodation — and much more.
Anglicare Southern Queensland is taking a different approach to tackling youth homelessness and Raymond is one of the first to reap the benefits.
Aside from a home, Anglicare provided Raymond with life skills, training and a job through its newly launched food van where he learned the ins and outs of the hospitality industry and rediscovered his passion for life.
The Good Grub Club food van recently hit the streets of Brisbane, Logan and Redlands.
Anglicare’s Youth Homelessness Service manager Rees Maddren said instead of dishing up food for young homeless people, the Good Grub Club is teaching homeless teenagers like Raymond, about nutrition and how to cook but also operates as a food truck at community events.
“It’s a twist on the traditional food truck idea,” Mr Maddren said.
“We’re not out to feed the homeless with this particular project, we’re here to equip young people with particular skills, get them an income, get something on their resumes, connect them with training and they can go out and do that in the real world.
“We will identify homeless young people in need of employment and training in this area, providing food van employment, selling nutritious food and drinks to the public at events.”
The van recently had its first public outing, catering at a youth festival at Inala in Brisbane’s west.
Raymond and two other teens teamed up with a youth worker to serve 500 people.
“It was so fun, it meant so much to me,” Raymond said.
“Oh my goodness, my first job ever — it’s been great.
“It’s been such a hectic time but I’m hoping this will get me a job in the hospitality industry.”
Now 16, Raymond and his sister live in a unit at Woodridge after spending three months in crisis accommodation.
“It [Insync Youth Homelessness service] helped us settle down and get back on track,” he said.
“I went back to school … I never went to school when I was homeless.
“We moved out in April and we’ve been living in our own home for four months now.”
Recent census data showed 117,000 people were homeless in Australia and more than 5,800 in Brisbane, with 42 per cent of homeless people in Australia aged under 25.
Mr Maddren said Raymond was the program’s first success story.
“He’s a very outgoing young man and great on the counter and we’re very proud of him,” he said.
The Good Grub Club was funded through the Queensland Government’s Dignity First Fund to help prevent and reduce homelessness.
“We hope to expand to a lot more events as we get into the hang of things and have a real thoroughfare of young people coming through, staying to get experience and qualifications and then a job in the industry,” Mr Maddren said.
‘We are applying for another round of funding but eventually the income from this van will have to make this a self-funding project.”
Raymond is now in Year 11 and hopes to use the experience to build a career.
“I want to be in the TV industry and be an actor — that’s what I want to do,” he said.
“I’ve been saving some money … I’m being responsible.
“This [the Good Grub Club] has given me so much … communication skills, teamwork skills, I’ve built a lot of respect.”
Raymond was optimistic about the future.
“I think the future holds of lot of good things for me,” he said.
“It [the Good Grub Club] has turned my life around, it really has — I’m on top of the world.”
This week is national Homelessness Week, an annual awareness-raising event to highlight the 116,000 Australians who are homeless on any given night.
*Surname withheld for privacy.
This article first appeared in https://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-04/homelessness-week-cooking-to-combat-homlessness/11320962?pfmredir=sm