Youth advocate Reggie shows the way

Reggie is a person who wears many hats: social justice volunteer, housing advocate, child welfare worker, tertiary student and last but not least, singer in a pop choir.
“I love doing different things,” Reggie said.

“The other big part of my life is online. The friends I hang out with the most are part of the gaming community.”

A dedicated station with multiple screens and speakers set-up in the study nook of Reggie’s South Melbourne apartment tells the story of a passionate gamer.

Reggie shares the Housing Choices apartment overlooking the city with pet cat, Celestia.

After a childhood in foster care and years of housing insecurity and homelessness, Reggie feels lucky to have a home.

“I fell through the cracks in the system, as lots of young people do.

“I was on the streets of Melbourne and I was using youth refuges … and experiencing the worst mental health of my life.”

Reggie said a call from the not-for-profit mental health, homelessness and suicide prevention service led to secure and stable accommodation through Housing Choices.

“A Neami worker called me out of the blue one day and said she hadn’t heard from me in a while. I said I was homeless, I had nowhere to go, it was the end of the line for me,” Reggie said.

“A few weeks later she had found a home for me to move into.

“It was like winning the lottery because there was no way that I would have been able to get that without that person’s help – I wouldn’t have known.”

Reggie has since advocated to increase the age of out-of-home care in Victoria to 21 years old, a change which has now been implemented.

“We’re trying to raise it to 25 to make it less likely that young people end up homeless,” Reggie said.

“I feel like I’ve recovered from the trauma of being homeless but I think these events leave traces on you.”

Part of Reggie’s healing journey was to find a name they identified with.

“I use they/ them pronouns and changed my name officially in 2021 – to Reggie – after deciding that my old name was no longer suitable for what I want to go with and the trajectory of my life,” they said.

Reggie’s advice is if you don’t know or unsure what pronouns to use, just ask the person, or use they/them pronouns until told differently.

“It’s hard to be an outlier,” Reggie said.

“You face a lot of criticism from people … sometimes it’s just easier to try and fit in … it’s hard to constantly tell people, ‘please don’t misgender me or mis-pronoun me’.

“Our society hasn’t grown to the stage where it fully understands people’s differences … there is a lot of work still to be done … but I’m enjoying being part of communities and in a space where I can really enjoy being myself.”