The Garage: A fun, safe, chill out space for at-risk young people.

Anglicare Victoria’s youth program The Garage in Melbourne’s Western suburbs has been running for the past 15 years and is very well-known through the local community of young people, with word of mouth generally the way young people hear about the Garage Program.

The aim of The Garage is to provide a safe place for at-risk youth who are not engaged in education or training. The young people, who attend each Wednesday afternoon when The Garage is open, can speak with youth workers and other external health and wellbeing services, hang out, take part in activities on offer and be referred to an external service if required.

Many regulars attend the program, with some waiting at the door as soon as it’s open on a Wednesday, which has made The Garage a place where young people just know to go to. Later in the afternoon, high school kids drop by for a bite to eat and catch up with the other young people.

Many services visit the centre on a weekly basis to engage with the young people, including Co-Health nurses, Alcohol and Drugs specialists, Melbourne City Mission and employment specialists with the aim of helping the young people where needed.

Renee is a Youth Program Worker at The Garage and says the space is a fun and welcoming spot for young people to hang out.

“Basically we are just a really good safe space for young people to come in, interact with a range of workers, and or get a referral to external services to meet their needs. We have lots of information around the Garage such as community educations and training centres, community programs such as Job Skills centres and good mental health tips, it provides all of the information that you often need as a young person who’s dropped off the radar.”

“So they’re not in school, they’re not at work, they may be engaged with a job search provider. However, they are still not receiving the support needed to enhance their future prospects.  The Garage offers a place to assist with this and aid in pinpointing programs or services that can brighten their future prospects.

Renee recalls a 22-year-old girl who was attending the garage regularly had trouble finding work. By calling into the Youth Garage, she was able to receive help from a job skills specialists who reviewed her resume and encouraged her to go and hand the resumes out. Just having the conversation really encouraged and helped the girl gain confidence with finding work.

As well as a referral point, it’s also a hub for fun, with a BBQ taking place each week and coffee on offer as well as activities to acknowledge days such as Harmony Day and White Ribbon Day.

“We’ve got a pool table here. I often have mindfulness colouring drawings. I try to do a lot of the mindfulness activities, we made stress balls a couple of weeks ago, and we’re doing sensory bottles in the next term. So really trying to incorporate some methods to help young people destress and relax.”

Coffee Barista training is also provided every second week from a local coffee specialist, Capra coffee, who come in and teach the young people soft skills and helps them gain confidence in themselves and learn a new skill. “It’s that soft skills training that helps. It’s about getting their confidence up to get to that next step. If they are finding they like it, there is a place in the city or there’s Streat where they can go to get their barista training card free of charge. So it’s just those soft skills trying to get young people to that next point, which is often where they’re struggling.”

“There aren’t many youth programs that are just very open so this is what this program is, so there’s no structure, you don’t have to do the activities it’s participation by choice so it makes it very welcoming, it’s not too overwhelming for young people. So it’s been great, I love the program,” says Renee.