LUCY Doolan has come a long way from the days of sleeping inside charity bins as an eight-year-old.
The brave 20-year-old Mildura woman, who is originally from Perth, brought tears to a 200-strong crowd at Mallee Accommodation Support Program’s Mildura City Community Sleepout in Mildura’s Langtree Mall on Saturday night.
Battling nerves, Ms Doolan shared her story of a childhood on the streets when her mother’s life turned pear-shaped.
“My mother wasn’t coping on her own and went off the rails, so to speak, and welfare authorities became involved,” she said.
“I remember getting up in the early hours of the morning with candles lit, because the power had been turned off, and leaving everything we had behind.
“Imagine being a parent and having to sleep outside a charity bin while your children are inside wrapped up in second-hand clothing but you can’t hold and cuddle them to sleep because you have to protect them on the outside.
“And then having to wake up with the shame of someone opening and collecting the contents to find your children inside asleep because that’s the only shelter you could provide them with.”
But Ms Doolan’s life turned around when, at age 15, she arrived in Mildura and sought support from the community.
“I was fortunate enough to be involved in MASP’s Kokoda youth mentoring program, which connected me to many more amazing people in this community,” she said.
“By showing me kindness, compassion and caring genuinely with their hearts, these people have impacted and believed in me during times when I have felt like giving up on myself.
“I moved into transitional housing and completed year 12 and did work experience in Canberra where I worked for the Prime Minister – an experience I cherish.
“And my greatest achievement yet is being chosen as one of 30 Australian youth delegates to speak up about global youth issues as part of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting held in Perth last year.”
Ms Doolan said it was important to “focus on a solution, not the issue”.
“Ask yourself how you can make a difference rather than telling yourself how you can’t because homelessness is a harsh reality for hundreds in our community,” she said.
“People are not homeless because they choose to be, life forces them to be – they need to feel a sense of belonging from us and a connection with the rest of the community.”
MASP’s CEO Doug Tonge said he was inspired by Ms Doolan’s speech.
“She is a young person who has grown up with some challenges in her upbringing, but she participated in Kokoda about three years ago and that helped turn her life around,” Mr Tonge said.
“It is what MASP is all about – we work with people of all ages whether they are disabled, socially disconnected or have failing health.”
To see photos from the MASP Sleepout click here
This article appeared in Monday's Sunraysia Daily newspaper 13/8/12