When Jimmy was referred to the Shoalhaven Youth Support Service’s (SYSS) residential program by his counsellor he had hit rock bottom.

 Jimmy had a tough childhood and, at the age of 16, was forced to leave the family home in Sydney. He found himself on the South Coast, living with a grandparent he barely knew, and no solid support network or sense of direction. When his relationship with his grandparent broke down, Jimmy resorted to couch surfing and staying with mates.

“Jimmy was referred to SYSS by a local counselling service, who identified him as being at risk of homelessness and in need of some guidance and advocacy,” said SYSS caseworker Lewis Mitchell.

SYSS helps up to 173 young people in the Shoalhaven each year who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Of these young people 70% have left home to escape family violence, child abuse or family breakdown, more than 65% have a diagnosed mental health issue and 34% identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

“Jimmy entered our eight-week residential program at SYSS and was able to turn his life around,” said Lewis. “Once he had stable housing he could focus on counselling to address previous trauma, join vocational education and training programs, get an income and engage in positive socialisation and relationship building.”

Jimmy was linked in with SYSS caseworkers who helped him develop a case plan and identify his future goals. Having the support of SYSS empowered Jimmy to build on his existing skills of independence, resilience and a strong work ethic.

“Jimmy was always the first to ask if any jobs needed to be done around SYSS. He was the first in line for the weekly cooking program, and even helped caseworkers delouse SYSS’s resident chickens,” said Lewis.

It soon became apparent to SYSS staff that Jimmy had a knack for fixing things. His skills were put to good use and Jimmy began rebuilding and maintaining bikes donated to SYSS and used by young people in the program. Jimmy was not only known for his tinkering talent but also his quirky sense of style. For months Jimmy wore an old, worn out red sock tied around his boot.

“I wore this sock on by right foot, which is my dominant foot,” said Jimmy. “It reminded me to always put my best foot forward and leave behind the negative stuff that has happened along the way.”

The sock became a symbol of the struggles Jimmy had overcome and the resilience he had developed at such a young age.

“Jimmy wore the sock tied to his boot for well over a month, only taking it off when it broke after getting caught in the chain of a bike he had rebuilt from spare parts,” said Lewis.

After “graduating” from SYSS Jimmy spent three months in private housing in Bomaderry before reconnecting with his natural mother and step-siblings.

“Jimmy has now relocated interstate to continue life with newfound family supports,” said Lewis.