The following interview is part of the Rarely Seen, Hardly Heard campaign – words by Georgie and interview by Lauren.
Rarely Seen, Hardly Heard is about shining a light on the stories, thoughts and opinions of young people who have never been published on the WhyNot platform before, helping break down stereotypes and continuing to amplify diverse voices. All young people have a right to speak up and be heard.
You can listen to the full conversation via the below audio player or read on for Georgie’s recap.
WhyNot’s ‘Rarely Seen, Hardly Heard’ campaign has landed us with amazing opportunities, yet again, to build connections with incredible young people – always kind and brave in sharing their stories with us.
Lauren (from the WhyNot team) sat front and centre with the incredible Krystelle from the HoMie Pathway Alliance Program. We were grateful to get to know Krystelle. Her quick wit and matter of fact temperament had us in stitches early on, not to mention her courage in sharing her unfiltered experiences with us.
Georgie and Teri – quietly hidden in the zoom cover of darkness, were capturing the wisdom at high speed as it spilled between these two creatives.
Let us paint you a picture.
Here’s what we know about this incredibly resilient young woman.
Krystelle currently lives in public housing in central Melbourne and is studying business, majoring in comms at Monash uni. She and her three sisters all have names ending in ‘elle’. Krystelle moved out with her boyfriend after living with her mum got tough, given she was facing some complex mental health issues. A messy break up and without her name on the lease – Krystelle found herself kicked out of her home. With Centrelink payments that never landed in her account and unable to move back in with her mum – Krystelle was forced into a situation many young people have found themselves in – homelessness.
“I’ve had a very challenging life for particular reasons growing up”
First, we checked in…
As we so often do – we began with the old ‘good week, bad week’ check in.
Krystelle’s week was shaping up with boy troubles “not my fault – it’s them” (boy, do we hear you Krystelle!) but the week was also nicely offset by building new friendships that have led to her being more out and about than usual.
Already with more in common than they thought – Lauren nods, whilst rolling her eyes and acknowledges her own handful of boy troubles this week. She doesn’t linger in boy trouble land for long, before she proudly shares the latest accomplishment of her mini sausage dog learning how to shake hands. Congratulations Humphrey!!!
They continue to unpack the weirdness of the world at the moment, how a pandemic can make time feel as if it’s standing still, thinking Monday is Friday and 2021 is still somehow 2020. How strange it is you can currently hike a mountain in Victoria, but not have someone over for a cup of tea… “This is the world we live in in 2021” (they shrug and carry on).
Lauren kicks us off with the first handful of questions.
- If you had to describe yourself in three words what would they be?
She smiles. The one that resonates most for her is resilience. We get it and we feel it. Krystelle continues “…and not to toot my own horn, but intelligent”.
Krystelle is also a self-described creative problem-solver and art is a big part of her life.
Lauren (a self-proclaimed champion of women being their unapologetic, true selves) is visibly excited – “toot away!”
- A sense of belonging and the creation of safe spaces is very important for our WhyNot Editorial Committee, what does belonging feel like to you?
Associating belonging with a feeling of comfort is a description many of us can relate to. It’s as if you have that friendship already there, a place where you can put your whole authentic true self on display. Krystelle explains she’s “been told I’m someone that is pretty good at making those safe spaces.” Feeling as if we’ve known her far longer than the 15 minutes of pre-interview chat, we can understand why.
The two of them agree that belonging is without fear or judgement, with friends or a place where you can be truly you. For Krystelle, this is at some of the clubs she goes to in the city and for Lauren she finds belonging at gigs as part of the music scene, where everyone has a shared passion.
- What is a challenge you have faced as a young person?
“Finances are always an issue, whether you can’t afford groceries, bills, rent.”
It’s not bloody rocket science, is it? Krystelle explains how a lack of money for young people is not something that should be overlooked.
“Money and finances is a huge hindrance to young people being able to live their lives.”
For Krystelle, not being able to go out for coffee with your friends has left her feeling trapped and isolated. Money issues can have a domino effect on social health – “I can’t see my friends, because I can’t afford a bus ticket down the road.”
- Tell us a little about the events that led you to working with HoMie Pathway Alliance Program.
First things first, what is the HoMie Pathway Alliance Program?
In short – according to HoMie themselves ‘In February each year, young people who are up to the challenge, apply through partnered Community Support Services to participate in an eight-month paid retail internship at the HoMie Street Store or a HoMie Pathway Alliance trained business.’
Krystelle admits she was reluctant at first when her support worker connected her at the last minute. She tells us about her horrible year in 2019, she was homeless for a couple of months and each rough situation was having a domino effect on the next, “one bad thing after another.” When it rains, it always pours.
Cut off from Centrelink, kicked out of the place she was sharing with her boyfriend and unable to afford rent on a new place – she found herself with “nowhere to go.”
“I’ve had a lot of support workers” she laughs and noted there’s nothing worse than a judgemental support worker that sees this kind of work as “just a job.”
As all her files – (which is code for “everything about me”) were passed over once again she found herself in the hands of a really nice and funny support worker that made it easier to face the relentless hurdles. “[They] went above and beyond to find an opportunity good for me.” She explains what it meant to connect with a support worker that really cared about her.
“[When you’re] feeling overwhelmed and isolated, [you] want someone that has your back.”
Part of this opportunity allowed Krystelle to study cert 3 in retail and connect with companies that are part of the alliance including big names like Nike, Bonds and Cotton On Group among others. The HoMie program allows young people to be fast tracked into employment and education and allows them to make connections with a strong network of business professionals. Krystelle explained how HoMie breaks down the barriers of authority and creates a safe space where everyone is on the same level. She regularly ate lunch with the CEO and recognised the unique value of removing the hierarchy to facilitate belonging.
“[It’s an] amazing program, more things like this should exist and it should get more praise and exposure than it does already get.”
We couldn’t agree more. More programs like this one should exist. They need to exist. Go HoMie indeed!
- What is a stereotype that you wish people would let go of when thinking about youth homelessness?
The assumption that someone ends up in this position because they’re rebellious, involved in drugs or other illegal activities is both ignorant and misleading.
In her experience, she’s had to fight stereotypes that she must be some “druggie or delinquent.”
“I was just in a bad situation with no other options.”
Krystelle explains how people can become homeless for a variety of reasons, whether it be family issues, domestic violence, financial challenges or something else entirely.
- What’s a piece of advice would you give someone who is in a similar situation to what you were in?
“Exhaust every resource.” Her message is clear.
“Homelessness is a suffering, it’s not a good time, it’s not enjoyable”
She explains how critical it is to throw everything at those who can help. Even if you’ve just heard of one or two organisations, or been knocked back a few times, use a directory and contact them all.
“You don’t want to extend your suffering”
- 2020/2021 has been a wild ride, to say the least, how have you been keeping busy and what’s in store for your 2022?
Krystelle took us through her 2020, where she spent most of her time with HoMie and got really into gaming, forming a tight knit group of friends. How good are new friends?!
Now studying back at uni, after a few “intermissions” she laughs, “it was a tumultuous time.” Boy, can we relate Krystelle! Over the course of her degree, she has often utilised the deferral option when not really feeling the study vibes. Having run out of deferrals, it’s now heads-down until graduation.
With gaming, uni and HoMie on the go, she landed another impressive milestone. After completing a four-week mini workshop with a handful of businesses plucked straight from the creative industry, Kystelle found herself applying for an internship with one of those employers that use a lot of “jargonistic words” – Lauren nods as if to say ‘consultant land’, we know the ones.
Landing this new role in her own words was “HUGE, HUGE”. We can’t stop smiling.
“It’s a paid internship, so I’m rich… not really!” Krystelle’s personality is infectious. The internship was initially three months, but they loved her (as if they wouldn’t) and her contract was extended another three.
Despite the uncertainty of securing ongoing work Krystelle is eager to stay on “I’d like to keep working…I don’t wanna be on Centrelink anymore – they suck!”
- What other initiatives and support would you love to see in place for youth homelessness?
“More housing – that’s the number one thing.” When Krystelle connected with Wombat Housing, there were over 20,000 people that had made contact with support services and were in need of housing. There were only 600 houses available in Melbourne. 600 houses for 20,000 people! “That disparity and gap between the amount of people that need help [compared to] what’s available.” She shook her head. We sat silent in disbelief. Krystelle paused, and we understood the magnitude of this disparity.
“20,000 people, not just youth, women with kids – families, old people, people coming out of prison…”
With the waiting list for commission housing up around 8-10 years, the most that can be offered is 2 nights in a hotel. It’s not enough. Krystelle explains how many wouldn’t know this unless you find yourself in a situation that requires you to be looking for a roof over your head.
“There’s nowhere for you to go.”
The government owned house Krystelle is currently living in was fought over by 6 different services – it put a roof over the heads of “2 people out of 20,000.”
“I’m very, very lucky”
We touched on the importance of creating safe spaces, I would love to ask why you wanted to share your story, and what it means to you?
Kystelle’s message cuts through and resonates in a way we hadn’t prepared for.
“Like I said 20,000 people… [in need of housing].”
She needs others to know there are people out there who can help them find a way through.
“Homelessness can kill you – we’re in the middle of winter right now. “
Krystelle acknowledges that she has experienced disadvantage, but she’s also highly educated and motivated. We also know she’s a wonderfully kind human being (anyone who spends five minutes with her can see that) and “it happened to me.”
“It can happen to everybody.”
We can’t thank you enough Krystelle. We’ve been blown away by your courage, wisdom and compassion to support others and your drive to eliminate the suffering of others – we are very, very lucky to have met you.