A day at Windana Youth Community House

With COVID restrictions easing this year, we were excited to start getting out to Windana’s locations and shadowing a team for a day. Our first visit was to Windana Youth Community House (WYCH) in late March.

A mosaic spelling out the word "Windana" in blue tiles against white.
Windana mosaic

Nestled on a corner block on Clow Street in Dandenong, WYCH is a 7-bed residential withdrawal unit for young people aged 12-24, who can stay for between 7-14 days. ​​​​​​​

We spent the day with Lea (Program Coordinator), Erica (Administration Assistant), Michelle (Intake and Assessment Worker), Nyachan and Nicole (Case Workers), Jamie (Support Worker) and Hiccup (the resident lizard).

Even with COVID-19 restrictions still in place at the time allowing only three young people to stay a time, WYCH was a hive of activity. A client discharge, two admissions, a couple of group sessions. And luckily for us, to top it off it was tracky-dack Tuesday.

At 9.30am the team sat down with the clients for the morning meeting. It involved setting a goal for the day and saying what we were grateful for from the day before so, as Nyachan puts it, “the days don’t just glide by.”

This moment of reflection and gratitude grounded the day – a practice many of us could benefit from taking into our daily lives.

Windana’s holistic care is at the forefront at WYCH. Key to this is getting to know the young people who come into WYCH, finding out more about their story and then tailoring the support around them.

While clients might only stay at WYCH for two weeks, the team use this time to get to know them and link them to services that can help them after they’re discharged including day programs, counselling support, local organisations and other referrals.

Later that morning we joined Lea and David* for a stroll around the streets of Dandenong. In the sun and fresh air, the impact of leaving the house was clear. The conversation flowed more freely than we imagine it would in a more formal sit-down situation in the house. David* opened up as we talked about home life, what he plans to do after school, his love of sport and his part-time job.

During the handover meeting after lunch the team discussed the current clients, where they were at and how they were feeling. This is where the realities of our clients lived experience become clear. The journey that led each of them to WYCH on this day couldn’t be more different.

Each client’s story is unique, as are their goals. Some come to WYCH for a circuit-breaker. Some come because they’re ready to reduce their use of a drug or alcohol. Some want to stop all together. Regardless of the client’s story, the team see our clients as people first. Not as a ‘user’ or ‘addict’ as society too often does.

During the handover meeting we saw how different parts of Windana come together to wrap around clients. Case workers, intake and assessment, harm reduction, our nurse practitioner, admin support, art therapy – the list goes on. We talk about this a lot at Windana, but it’s an impressive thing to see in action.

This is Windana’s holistic, harm reduction approach in action. It’s about meeting people where they are and supporting them to achieve the goals they want to achieve.

A big thanks to the WYCH team for being so generous with their time. There is a lot of care, compassion and fun in the house, which we were glad to experience first-hand.

A timber house painted cream and grey. Bushes and trees surround the structure. On the right is the quote: "Windana Youth Community House “Each young person’s story is unique. The team get to know the young people who come into WYCH, find out more about their story, and then tailor the support around them.”