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Life skills learnt early very important, says former homeless teen

A young Geraldton man who used to be homeless believes if he had been taught critical life skills at an earlier age, he might have been able to better manage his life.

Warren Gilchrist, 19, this year moved into an independent unit after living for nearly two years in a Beachlands homeless shelter.

The move follows 10 months sleeping on his mate’s couch after leaving home at 17 to distance himself from living in a two-bedroom house with seven people.

He was originally referred to Short Term Accommodation Youth before applying for a bed at St John of God Horizon House in Beachlands. “I was a bit nervous when I was approved,” Mr Gilchrist, pictured, said.

“It was a bit much that first week settling in with five other random people. But after that, it was totally fine.”

Though he moved out of Horizon House in January, he has chosen to continue with the facility’s life skills program, which teaches skills such as cooking, cleaning, budgeting and understanding a lease. He said he had given smoking, drinking, spending money unwisely and being a “bum”.

Instead, he dived back into his education and took up multiple odd jobs and resume-building work experience, including mine site work, construction, retail, roofing and other labour jobs.

“In the next 12 months, I’m hoping to have a full-time job and a car, and hopefully have some savings as well for a holiday,” he said.

Mr Gilchrist has since repaired his relationship with his family and is on track to complete a number of small goals, like finding permanent work. He has thrown his support behind people learning valuable life skills in their teens and he has encouraged at-risk youth to speak up if they’re struggling.

“You can’t always tell if someone is homeless or about to be just by looking at them,” he said.

“Be motivated to help yourself and know that there’s places like Horizon House that can support you.”

In June, Midwest Community Drug and Alcohol Service employee Rachael Ferris suggested more life skills education would reduce local homeless numbers.

She said homelessness could be disrupted if people were taught how to run households and budget.

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