Gold Coast teen turns his back on drugs, gangs and crime
JAYDEN Howard may be only 18, but he has known the pits of despair and the depths of loneliness brought on by street life.
However, he has since turned his back on drugs, gangs and petty crime to find peace and stability in supportive accommodation.
This is being provided by Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Gold Coast to help him and others in a similar predicament while they work or study to get their lives back on track.
Mr Howard said he grew up not knowing where his parents were and was raised by an Ipswich foster family. He felt like he never fitted in to society and, last year, he rebelled.
“I got involved with drugs – I smoked weed and took LSD for a couple of months,” he said.
“I went on the streets and found other people who were on drugs. I got involved with gangs where I felt loved and like I fitted in more with them than I did with my own family.
“Everything was about respect and, if someone disrespected us, gang members would bash them.”
His gang was made up of people aged 18 to 22 who roamed the streets of Ipswich.
“I was with them for three or four months and my parents eventually kicked me out because the drugs started influencing my life at home,” Mr Howard said.
“I was homeless for two months. I would couch surf for a few nights and be on the streets for the rest of the week.
“I didn’t know how to survive or how to get out of my situation. No one helped me. ”
During this dark time in his young life, Mr Howard hit a really low point on Christmas Day.
“I was so desperate that I started praying and things started happening. It was weird as, and since then, a lot of opportunities have popped up for me,” he said.
The teenager decided to start a new life on the Gold Coast and, on January 26, he moved in with “some really decent people” at Upper Coomera.
“I got a job as a chef and I met this guy named Paul and that’s when my life began to change,” he said.
One night while checking out a club, he came across a YWAM coffee van, which reaches out to the city’s broken people at Southport.
“I told them my life story and they told me about their life-changing experiences and the Discipleship Training School (DTS) for surfers and skateboarders in September,” he said.
“I decided I wanted to do it and Paul hooked me up with YWAM. I’m now staying in one of their houses, where I rent a room. I’m working two jobs and I am doing so well now.
“I have more peace in my heart and I have everything I need.
“I’m with people who actually love other people and want to help them. They are really supportive.”
Once he has completed his DTS, which includes an overseas mission trip, Mr Howard has set his sights on a law degree.
YWAM Gold Coast director Darcy McCaslin has confirmed Jayden Howard’s miraculous turnaround and said his story was an example of what could be achieved through a supportive housing project.
The not-for-profit organisation is planning to buy a building in Southport, which will provide accommodation for people who are homeless or at risk.
“Applicants will have to be working, undergoing training or studying,” Mr McCaslin said.
“Supportive housing is not a free handout or crisis accommodation. It’s accommodation for
people learning new skills or working, so they can get back on their feet.”
YWAM Gold Coast is seeking financial support for its plans and it has public benevolent institution status, which means all donations are tax-deductible.
For more information, phone Mr McCaslin on 0412 455 514.