People with Purpose: Home truths

Posted on 24 Oct 2023

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia

Nicole Chaplin 002

St John’s Youth Services CEO Nicole Chaplin refuses to define struggling youth by their temporary experience of homelessness.

How long have you worked in the not-for-profit sector and in what roles?

For nearly 30 years, unusually some might say, across two organisations.

The first was a large not-for-profit, where I started my career as a student placement, before moving on to volunteering and then paid work. I worked with children, families and young people.

In this organisation my leadership skills were identified, and when I left 13 years ago, I was a senior manager overseeing a range of community, employment, youth, emergency relief and wellbeing programs.

I commenced my role with my current employer, St John’s Youth Services, 13 years ago as operations manager. I moved into the general manager role and am currently the CEO.

During my professional career I have participated on several boards and committees connected to social services and First Nations owned and operated organisations.

NC Award Impact100 SA
"We know what works and have a proud record of developing innovative service models to change young lives for the better."

How would you describe the work carried out by St John's Youth Services?

We work with young people in the Adelaide metro area who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

As well as individuals, we support young couples, families, single mums and dads, and their children.

We believe in young people and refuse to define them by their temporary experience of homelessness.

Instead, we focus on each young person’s talents and ambitions, and their capacity to overcome challenges in their past and take control of their future.

Since St John’s Youth Services was established in 1981, we have supported more than 15,000 young people experiencing homelessness or crisis.

We know what works and have a proud record of developing innovative service models to change young lives for the better.

Our accommodation services include Adelaide’s only youth crisis accommodation facility, Youth110, a partnership between Believe Housing and St John’s Youth Services. Youth110 provides 30 self-contained apartments over four floors, with 24-hour case management and support.

Located in the UNO apartment complex, Youth110 is the world’s first apartment-based crisis service to be co-located in a mixed tenure residential building.

Our other services include:

  • Foyer Port Adelaide, a partnership between the SA Housing Authority and St John’s Youth Services. It provides medium-term independent apartment accommodation for young people who want to re-engage with education, or seek training or employment.
  • Transitional outreach support for young people who have stayed at our accommodation services, and Next Step – an intensive, individualised, long-term solution to homelessness that equips young people with the skills they need to live independently.
  • Keeping My Place, an early intervention response that provides support for young people who are living in private rental but at risk of losing their tenancy due to personal or financial crisis.

Our goal is to break the cycle of homelessness, and our services interconnect to provide holistic, wraparound support tailored to individual need.

Whether a young person is already experiencing homelessness, living in private rental but at risk of eviction, or ready to move into a place of their own, our range of programs assist young people at every stage of their housing journey.

NC on Harmony Day 2022
Nicole embraces South American culture as part of Harmony Day celebrations.

What is the most challenging problem you are trying to solve right now?

Where do I start?

In the current economic climate, we face many challenges – investing in ourselves to create stability and sustainability, investing in our people to maintain a highly qualified workforce, advocating for the young people we serve to secure a home and incomes, identifying and finding appropriate strategies to minimise current and upcoming risks.

How did you find participating in the Advanced Leadership for Community Chairs course through Our Community?

It was a great course. Being a CEO and a board member, I could take lessons for both roles. Having the recordings to reflect on later in the week was useful.

Would you recommend completing the Chairs course to others in the sector?

I would highly recommend the course to chairs, directors and CEOs. There is something for everyone.

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