Meet Jenny Hand, Manager, Brophy Family and Youth Services Foyer Warrnambool

Jenny Hand has been the manager of Foyer Warrnambool operated by Brophy Family and Youth Services since it opened its purpose-built building in central Warrnambool in 2012. 

Since that time, 96 young people aged from 16 to their early 20s have lived at the Foyer for up to two years where they have learnt the skills and gained the confidence to live and work independently when they leave.  

“When we first interview them when they arrive, some of them say they find it hard to meet new people,’’ says Jenny.  

The key to Foyer Warrnambool’s success, as at all Foyers, is to help young people who have experienced homelessness, or are at significant risk of it, to be given time, support and connections to education, training and the local community to help navigate their own way towards independence. 

“So it’s nice to witness how they become part of the group and the longer they are here they gradually take on leadership roles. You see their confidence and their enjoyment of the place really blossom.” 

Foyer Warrnambool houses 16 residents, each of whom has their own unit with kitchen and bathroom facilities. Three of the 16 units are two-bedroom to accommodate young people with children, and two units are wheelchair accessible. 

“The dynamic here is like a family,’’ Jenny says

In addition, there are communal living, eating and outdoor garden areas where social activities such as game nights and video nights take place. The Foyer also organises a range of development workshops, activities, camps and excursions which are planned ed around the offers of Housing and Living skills, Education, Employment, Health and Wellbeing and Civic Participation.

The staff includes Jenny, three full-time Youth Development workers who provide one on one coaching and support to the residents, with one part-time worker focussing on Health and Wellbeing activities. Another four part-timers work on a rotating roster to cover overnight and weekend shifts. 

“The dynamic here is like a family,’’ Jenny says. “There is a range of ages from 16 to up to about 22 and we find that a natural leadership does emerge in the group.”  

The staff’s role is to foster independence which is both a formal and informal process. 

At Foyer Warrnambool, residents are required to complete the  Certificate 1 in Developing Independence course, run by the nearby South West TAFE. Its instructors come to the Foyer to teach the residents and work with them on educational planning linked to their goals and aspirations.  

Warrnambool is a thriving Victorian coastal town of 31,000 people and its main industries are tourism and hospitality, a large meat works and its main hospital. 

This provides a ‘soft entry’ into what can be the daunting prospect of entering a large educational institution – particularly if a young person has long left school or has had negative experiences at an educational institution.  

This might happen organically through a program such as the ‘L to P’ driving course in which locals volunteer to help the residents build up their driving hours. It can also be encouraged by joining sporting clubs or the local gym (to which all residents are given membership), or pursuing job opportunities with local businesses and enterprises.  

Warrnambool is a thriving Victorian coastal town of 31,000 people and its main industries are tourism and hospitality, a large meat works and its main hospital. 

“There are lot of employment opportunities in a regional city of this size but there is not one particular pathway,” Jenny says. 

Independence is also part of the leasing arrangements at the Foyer. Residents sign a Tenancy Agreement before entering. Those aged over 18 pay the equivalent of a quarter of their weekly income (plus $50 a fortnight for utilities) and under 18s pay $15 a week and $50 a fortnight for utilities. 

In addition, they buy and cook their own food, and pay for toiletries and make contributions to any social activities organised by the Foyer. 

The Foyer is located within walking distance of Waarnambool CBD, the TAFE, and Deakin University is a short distance by public transport which is easily accessible from the Foyer.

Foyer Warrnambool exterior

 When one of the young people leaves the Foyer after the allotted two-year period they are offered a three- month outreach support program to aid them in their transition from the Foyer to independent living. 

“Sometimes they’ll drop in to share news of their life or show us their flash new car.”  

For more information about living at Foyer Warrnambool, click here.