LANDSCAPER Jay Shelling believes that every young person deserves a chance and a job, no matter what their life story has been.
Shelling has started a not-for-profit outreach service for young people called Street Peace, with the aim of guiding disenfranchised young people into lives of purpose and hope.
That path may seem out of reach for many disconnected and at-risk youth, but Shelling makes the goal of a roof over their heads and a job achievable through employing young people in his landscaping business on the Mornington Peninsula and in Frankston.
Shelling said it was one way he could “give back”.
“I had a great upbringing, so I feel lucky enough to be able to help people who haven’t had it so good,” he said.
“Every young Australian has the right to a family and to be loved.”
Shelling and his team of five outreach workers go onto the streets themselves, connecting directly with teenagers and young people who may have lost direction and hope.
Some of the stories they hear are confronting and sad, and each one reinforces the team’s knowledge that mentorship and support is important to help young people navigate life’s challenges.
“By getting to know these young people and getting them on board to come and trust us and work with us, we can mentor them to a better future,” he said.
“We know it works, because we have some amazing young people working with us and we get emails and messages from parents who are shocked at the difference in their kids, some of who haven’t spoken to their parents in a long time,” he said.
Shelling says Street Peace was a direct response to youth discontent and crime around Frankston and has since grown to connect with young people all the way down the peninsula.
“Many of the young people we see on the streets are homeless, not involved in school or training, they steal for food and money, and are involved in some sort of crime to survive,” he said.
“We have shown that our system of working with these kids, going on their streets to talk to them, develop connections and address the driving factors behind their disengagement and anti-social behaviour can help them break that cycle.”
Street peace would like to hear from businesses keen to get involved in the program. The not-for-profit is also seeking community donations to keep the service running.
Street Peace is governed by a voluntary board of directors from Frankston Life Community.