Where we’ve come from
“The Stepping Stone House vision is to end youth homelessness in Australia”
In 1989 Max and Joan Connery were alarmed at the number of homeless young people in Sydney. Inspired by a lay group in Rome – The Community of Saint Egidio – they believed our community could help.
Max, at a wake for a Rugby mate, suggested they form a committee to set up a house for homeless young people. He pointed out:
“Wesley Mission’s Gordon Moyes and Dr Alf Pollard say that it would cost $80,000 per annum to run a 24 hour supervised house for seven homeless youth. I believe we could turn them around with good care and outdoor activities and camps. Wesley will help with staffing and know how.
I have been lucky in my life. We are all accidents of birth. We have no say as to who our parents are. This is a way of giving those who are homeless, through no fault of their own, a chance. I am looking for $3,000 a year for 3 years from 15 to 20 people.” The fifteen present all agreed to contribute.
A large federation house was coming up for auction in the following 2 weeks. It was ideal and only 105 metres from a railway station. It was passed in at auction with Max being the highest bidder at $300,000. In the next few days the Big Brother Movement (BBM Ltd.) agreed to buy the house at the request of Jim Fergusson, one of the fifteen, and Stepping Stone House could lease it from them for 3 years. The house was then restructured so that we had 6 bedrooms with a self contained flat. Stepping Stone House had arrived!
Stepping Stone House has helped over 300 young people in its first 20 years. The idea was to create a secure and safe location for young people in need, most of whom came from an environment of neglect, abandonment, abuse, with exposure to drugs, alcohol and violence, complicated by mental health issues. After 3 years Stepping Stone House purchased the property back from BBM Ltd which remains our major financial sponsor. After 6 years we separated from Wesley Mission and have remained independent ever since.
Outdoor activities are part of the programme. Stepping Stone House has walked the Cradle Mountain track with the young people, kayaked on Lake Eucumbene, twice there has been a 10 day sailing voyage from Sydney to Mooloolaba. Two camps take place each year including 4 days skiing in the Snowy Mountains. Many of our ex-residents attend these trips paying their own way. They are superb mentors for our residents.