Youth Off The Streets

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Youth Off The Streets is an Australian community organisation working for young people who are homeless, drug dependent and recovering from abuse. YotS supports these young people as they work to turn their lives around and overcome immense personal traumas such as neglect and physical, psychological and emotional abuse.


The organisation was started in 1991 by Father Chris Riley. Youth Off The Streets has grown from a single food van delivering meals to young homeless people on the streets of Kings Cross, New South Wales to a major agency providing a wide range of services to youth.

Youth Off The Streets has helped more than 70,000 people with less than half of its funding coming from government sources. It employs more than 150 people and has more than 320 volunteers.[1]

It provides crisis care for young people still living on the streets with a food van, youth refuge and outreach programs. It also operates an innovative drug and alcohol program specifically designed for young people. Accredited independent high schools in Surry Hills, the Southern Highlands and Merrylands provide educational opportunities and support for young people living on the streets or who are unable to attend mainstream high schools. Many of these young people go on to achieve their High School Certificate.

YOTS patrons are the former Governor General of Australia, Sir William Deane and Lady Helen Deane.


In April 1995 Fr. Riley started a detox centre named the Dunlea Adolescent Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program.[2]

On 21 October 1995, NSW Premier Bob Carr opened the Better Homes Farm – a Youth facility in Canyonleigh, NSW. The farm provides a place for kids who graduate from the Don Bosco House in Marrickville.

In 1997, Father Riley opened Key College, another independent high school to help young people living on the streets and in temporary accommodation return to school.[3]

Medium to long-term residential rehabilitation programs, located in the Southern Highlands and the Hunter Valley, provide support for young people who have made the commitment to living a drug and crime free lifestyle. They attend school as well as receive counselling, life skills and vocational training.

After the residential programs they are offered a semi-independent living and mentoring program, designed to help them engage in further study or to find meaningful employment. Both the employer and the young person are supported through their first year of working together.

A new ASPIRE program delivers innovative drug prevention and early intervention strategies to young people disconnected from mainstream education. This program and the GetReel drug education competition and curriculum and the Values Education Youth Making a Difference resource is now available to schools across Australia.

In 2003 YOTS had grown to 20 projects including:

  • Better Homes Farm
  • Foundation House
  • David Farm
  • Holborrow House
  • Connie’s Place
  • Lois House for girls
  • Debra Benson House for girls
  • Don Bosco House
  • Dunlea Adolescent Alcohol and Drug Centre
  • Matthew Hogan School
  • Key College
  • Chapel School
  • Food Van
  • Street Walk[4]

A large new Youth Off The Streets centre in Macquarie Fields is expected to be built with federal government funding. Around $1.7 million has been allocated to the project through the Jobs Fund's Get Communities Working program. The project's expected name is the Rainbow Youth Centre.[5]

Working with the Islamic organisation Muhammadiyah, Youth Off The Streets helped build an orphanage in Aceh, Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami. Youth Off The Streets Overseas Relief Fund has projects in Albania, East Timor, Indonesia, Philippines and Tanzania.[6]

Male model Didier Cohen is raising money for Youth off the Streets, by appearing on The Celebrity Apprentice Australia.

In December 2010, YOTS purchased a portion of land in Cordeaux Heights from the Juvenile Justice Department, and has since received approval to redevelop the property into the Craig Davis College and supporting residential services.[7]


  1. ^ Parramatta Sun 28 April 2010 Archived June 22, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Williams, S. World Beyond Tears. Harper Collins 2005.
  3. ^ ABC Unleashed 9 February 2009
  4. ^ Williams, S. Mean Streets, Kind Heart. Harper Collins, 2003.
  5. ^ Macarthur Advertiser, 31 March 2010 Archived February 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Cowra Guardian, 5 March 2010 Archived July 6, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ "Cordeaux Heights Project". Youth off the Streets. Retrieved 19 November 2012.