The truth about being a homeless youth

Running away from a childhood of abuse and violence James turned to drugs.

By Bailee Dean

Desperate and scared, at 13-years-old James O’Sullivan stepped out his father’s front door and didn’t look back.

No home, barely any clothes, no job, no money and no food. Living on the streets is a tough life for an adult so it’s incredibly difficult to comprehend braving such a lonely world as a child.

In the winter months Bathurst temperatures often plummet below zero and the street air seethes with a bone rattling chill.

Narelle Stocks from the town’s homeless youth organisation, Verita’s House told CCI News, “No young child decides they want to be homeless because they can’t get Coco Pops for breakfast at home.”

Stocks pointed out that many children would rather live on the streets over their homes due to the abusive, violent or dangerous environment they face by being there.

After a few weeks of couch surfing this young boy ended up falling in with an infamous gang of people with an indisputably bad reputation; The Rebels.

Too young to understand the troubling depths of his new surroundings James found himself consumed in a world full of violence, drugs and abuse.

“My first trip, I drove without a license at 13 from Bathurst to Sydney to the Gold Coast and back to Sydney. I was with two of the big wigs. They were off their heads. They’d been smoking yandi (marijuana) and crack. They hadn’t slept for two days.”

An automatic machine gun sitting on the passenger floor, two machetes on the back seat and a glove-box full of ice, accompanied the trio on their journey.

When they arrived at their destination somewhere in the depths of Sydney’s Western suburbs, the two gang members took James into a “mansion” where he met two very important brothers.

“There was cash stacked everywhere. Everything you opened. They didn’t care and they weren’t worried, you’d have to be an idiot to steal from them.”

One of the brothers walked over to James and handed him two things; his first hit of ice and the keys to a Maserati.

“Go have fun,” he ordered him.

James spent the night high on ice, driving around Sydney streets in a Maserati.

At 3am James drove around the streets having the time of his life, completely overwhelmed by the drug’s hypnotic effects he was instantly hooked on its ecstasy.

“Once drugs are introduced they become a big component in these situations,” said social worker, Morgan Putnam.

“Children are being handed these addictive substances and they become their crutch. They become the thing they depend on… because they feel like they don’t have anything else.”

The next few years he followed an erratic road of highs and lows; copious amounts of money and sex, violence, running illegal errands, dealing drugs and taking them – until his addiction consumed James’ body and his mind.

“I began stealing from the people who had looked after me. My brotherhood. The Rebels took me in when I had no one else but I couldn’t help it. I needed the ice.”

James spent days on end awake using crystal methamphetamine.

Eventually, after becoming so desperate for money to buy the drug, James held up a local taxi driver with a machete and ended up in a juvenile detention centre.

He has since been to rehab and has been clean for over two years.

Reflecting on his childhood he said, “I wish there was more support for kids in those situations.

“When you’re just a child, living with your mum or dad and they’re taking drugs, not looking after you and violently abusing you, you don’t know what to do. All I felt like I could do was runaway, at only 13 – it ruined so much for me.”

“We’re quick to pass judgement most of the time without hardly any information. Try to be compassionate,” he cautioned.

“If someone would have believed in me when I was a child, everything would be different now.”