Tamara * is one of hundreds of young people supported by SYSS.

She was 21 when she first found herself homeless. She had a history of drug use from an early age, which led to her deteriorating mental health and relationship breakdown with her family.

Tamara called Link2Home, a homeless information and referral service, and joined the SYSS short-term residential program, which offers up to 8 weeks accommodation for 16-24 year olds.

“Tamara had a bumpy road, with multiple psychiatric hospital admissions, periods of couch surfing, and three residential support periods at SYSS,” said SYSS caseworker Ash McHugh. “At times, she did not want to engage with services at all, as it seemed too overwhelming.”

At her lowest point Tamara received a Community Treatment Order (CTO), which meant that she had to comply with prescribed medication, counselling and other rehabilitation services to be able to live in the community.

Tamara accepted these terms and worked closely with SYSS, Nowra Community Mental Health (NCMH) and Pathways Drug and Alcohol Program.

“Once she engaged with support, Tamara’s mental health and ability to be independent constantly improved over the next 12 months,” said Ash.

“Tamara’s family slowly started to become more present in her life, attending group counselling sessions with NCMH in a bid to rebuild damaged relationships.”

“Tamara completed her CTO, but she chose to continue with mental health support from NCMH and comply with medication. She could see how much her life had turned around and wanted to stay on that positive track.

“Tamara was offered a room at the SYSS transitional property, and signed a private lease for 12 months – something that would never have been possible a year earlier.”

Tamara credits the support she received from SYSS with changing her life.

“Having the people who work at SYSS to turn to, gave me the reassurance, stability and courage I needed,” said Tamara. “I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them. I’m happier and strong minded and I know I’ll always have them to turn to when I feel a bit lost.”

Tamara wants young people like her who are struggling with mental health issues to know that there is help out there, you just have to reach out and ask for it.

“There’s always someone who is willing to help and be there for you when you need them. Never feel like you are alone.”

Tamara admits independent living felt “a bit lonely at first”, but she loved having her own space and knows she has her family and friends to call on for support.

Tamara has a set of goals that is working towards achieving; to have a good career, to become a better, healthier person. But she hopes the first one she ticks of her list is finding more stable accommodation “like my own house”.

“Tamara’s story is testament to what is possible with the right support,” said Ash. “Tamara’s resilience, and engagement with support services, allowed her to flourish and become the independent young woman she is today.”

Tamara still has to work hard to stay on top of her mental health, and at times, just like anyone, her motivation can drop. But with the support of her family, friends, and SYSS, Tamara is proud of where she is and how far she’s come.

*name has been changed