“I saw a jewel in Tre – his raw honesty.”

When youth advisor Elisha describes working with Tre, you feel she is speaking about a special soul – someone who has both lived experience and unaffected candour.

To learn that she is talking about a young man who she met when he was 18 after aging out of foster care – unable to tackle the basics of adulthood like cleaning his room or maintaining good hygiene – is surprising.

Now 21 years old, Tre is full of insight, random facts and quips. He’s endured constant change both in and out of foster care. The hardest transition has been entering the world on his own as a young adult, with little to no life skills and chronic depression. In fact Tre’s first year out of foster care saw his depression reach rock bottom living with a former foster brother at Triangle Mountain.

It wasn’t until his social worker connected him with Elisha and a Youth Self-Sufficiency Program funded by United Way that Tre found some much needed life lines to help him with his transition to adulthood.

“They’ve helped me pretty much run my life,” says Tre. “It was a bit awkward at first because they were complete strangers…it was weird but it was nice. To know I could call someone up to take me grocery shopping or to get to an appointment…was amazing.”

“When I moved out of my group home I no longer had a bunch of people to interact with daily. Living so remotely in an unhealthy roommate situation, I wouldn’t leave the house other than to go to appointments, skate or see Elisha.” An avid skateboarder since the age of 5, skating is Tre’s creative, physical and emotional outlet.

“I wasn’t going to let living out there stop me from skating, even when it took me 3 buses to get all the way to the skate park. But I was so exhausted and unmotivated when I would get back home that I wouldn’t leave my room. I was really depressed.”

When Tre eventually moved to Vic West with the help of Elisha, it made a world of difference. He had motivation to go outside and maintain a routine.

“It’s a process, the beginning phases of learning how to integrate, be by yourself, and manage personal relationships” says Elisha. “I remember saying to Tre on the day we finished cleaning his disastrous room before his move, ‘we will look back on this day and we will laugh because it’s in the past’.”

Over the last 18 months, Tre has been working as a sales associate at a skate shop in Victoria. “I noticed a massive shift when he moved, chose different housemates and started working,” says Elisha. “He does chores, the basics, he shows initiative – he’s always had that power, but it’s become that much more refined over the last three years.”

Tre attributes his transformation to Elisha but she firmly tells him that “I didn’t really change you, Tre, I just helped you see you.”

“I don’t know where I would be or what I would do without Elisha and the programs that have helped me. I’m glad for their support and overall just being there for me. I truly don’t know what I would be doing right now if I didn’t have that.”

Now Tre is learning to look ahead and is contemplating studying criminal justice or business.

“I often describe the work in this field as invisible work. It has been an honour to witness Tre on his journey towards independence and to see him integrate into our community in Victoria,” says Elisha.