In 1999, youth justice worker Mark Watt and Carlton AFL player Glenn Manton noticed a cycle of disadvantage with young offenders – a “revolving door” of offence, incarceration, release and re-offence, which they believed could be changed. So the pair founded Whitelion, an organisation that pairs at-risk youth and former offenders with mentors to help them with their studies, find work, or to simply be available as a person they can rely on.
“Positive role modelling can be life-changing for the young person – to learn that there are adults who genuinely care,” CEO Hang Vo tells Broadsheet. “It could be a shared hobby such as bike riding or a more structured program to find a job,” he says.
For some young people, life after detention can mean ending up without a home – which becomes a huge barrier to finding employment, living safely and getting back on their feet. Every year, 44,000 young Australians end up homeless.
“Without a home, you cannot get a job. You can’t get a decent night’s sleep. There’s nowhere to shower,” Vo says. “If you’re worried about where you’ll be sleeping each night, how can you build confidence and skills?”
So Whitelion launched No Home Address, a fundraising campaign bringing awareness to the issues faced by homeless youth – ones that have also been further exacerbated by the pandemic. On October 10, World Homeless Day, Broadsheet and other leading Australian publications gave up their website homepages (or home address) by providing a pop-up that leads straight to Whitelion’s donation page.
The organisation is aiming to raise $250,000 to continue its mentorship program and connect more young people with positive role models. All donations will be matched by partners until the goal is reached.
“By building positive connections and pathways to work we move young people close to work and help break the cycle of disadvantage,” Vo says. “Whitelion envisions a world where no young person is left behind and where all young people have the right to equitable opportunities to reach their potential.”
Find out more about No Home Address, and if you are in a position to do so, donate.