TROUBLESOME youth get a bad wrap for unruly behaviour, but EACH front line youth worker Penny Lamaro knows there’s often far more to the story.
Ms Lamaro has been nominated for NSW Youth Worker of the Year for her work with Reconnect, a program that provides assistance to homeless youth in Armidale.
A youth worker for four years, Ms Lamaro has seen the implications of homelessness on the futures of our youth.
“Before I did this I worked in employment and as part of that role I had a lot of kids on my books that didn’t go to school, couldn’t go to school because they’d been expelled,” she said.
“They had no job prospects, no training, no ability to get a job.
“That’s kind of what started me on the road to becoming a youth worker.”
In Armidale there are more than 50 kids sleeping rough at any given time.
“We do a lot with the schools looking at kids who are at risk of disengaging, problems at home, whether there’s things that we can do to help mediate issues at home,” Ms Lamaro said.
“Usually one of the first signs we see with disengagement is with education, straight away at 12 or 13 years old a life pattern is started where they get behind."
Homeless youth often have reduced resilience skills and as a result they enter a crisis-cycle that makes addressing problems difficult.
Statistics show that once a child has been homeless, they are far more likely to be homeless again.
Ms Lamaro said that despite the odds being stacked against these kids, she believes the majority want to make a change.
“To be honest I love working with young people because they’re real, they’ve not built up the same barriers to the outside,” she said.
“Kids will tell you how it is, and they tend to be able and capable of seeing change and that’s what draws me.
“It’s also incredibly uplifting when you see kids that have been able to see the light and they’ve been able to move forward and decide they want something better for themselves.”
The awards night is on Thursday December 1.