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May 16, 2024

Joseph’s story begins when Drug ARM’s Street Outreach Services were still in their infancy in the early 1990s. At that time, Brisbane volunteers went out on patrol into the suburbs, looking to engage with at-risk young people.

So, it was that a Drug ARM Outreach team came across Joseph. He was just a young teen, no more than aged 12 or 13, and he was spending time at night wandering the streets in north-west Brisbane, drinking with mates.

Joseph says when he looks back on those years, it’s through a haze of guilt and remorse. We would drink and get drunk and then be bloody stupid,” he said.

This entailed everything from damaging people’s property to stealing whatever they could. While he came from a loving family, he had fallen in with friends who liked to drink and wreak havoc.

Except for those nights when the Drug ARM team visited his local skate park. On those nights, he and his friends chose to wait for the team to arrive to engage in a friendly chat.

“I looked forward to them coming. We liked talking to them,” he said. “They would listen and give advice… it’s something I’ll never forget.”

Joseph said the Drug ARM chats would keep him out of trouble for at least that night and sometimes ended with getting a lift to a safe place. “The visits left a real, life-lasting impression on me,” he said.

Despite the care shown by our Outreach team back then, he was not ready to be shaped by it. Instead, he was set on path leading to more serious drug use. In his later teens and early adult life, he became dependent on methamphetamine.

He said having stolen property as a teenager, he knew he had that ability. So later on, “stealing and drug use went hand in hand”, and he would serve several stints in a correctional centre.

Eventually, he started to see the impact his problematic drug use was having on those around him.

“It was having an impact on my relationship, an impact on my friends and family and on my children. All that started to dawn on me and I just decided I had had enough.”

People often get to the same point as Joseph and come in to Drug ARM, saying those exact words… “I’ve had enough.”

Joseph finally got the help he needed through several intensive support programs, and finally put the drug use behind him. He is now a married man of five children, and works towards supporting fundraising activities for not-for-profits.

What’s so amazing about his story, is that now, every second Friday night, he gets ready and goes out behind the wheel of the Drug ARM van.

Yes, that’s right! Once a teenaged patron, Joseph is now a recently trained Street Outreach volunteer! He aims not to miss a shift because he understands the importance of turning up on the same street corners, becoming a regular face and building rapport.

“When I was a kid, I knew when the Drug ARM team would be at the skate park. My mates and I would wait for them and they always turned up. That meant a lot to me.”

He also is keen to make it up to the community. “I want to repay the community in a positive way for all that I did back then,” he said.

Because he’s been on the other side of receiving, Joseph has much to give. He is open with patrons about his lived experience, which helps put them at ease. “I let them know it’s a path that I’ve walked myself and their guard comes down. I’m able to have those tough conversations with them about drugs and alcohol.

“They talk to you because they know you’re listening and not judging. It’s surprising how much they share. They tell you when they’re cold and need a blanket, when they last ate…

“I’m listening to them, just like the team used to listen to me.”

This May 2024, Drug ARM marks an incredible 35 years of community-sponsored Street Outreach. We hope for it to continue for many more decades. Want to get involved? Consider becoming a volunteer or please, make a donation, via our website today.

A kind chat and a hot cuppa from a volunteer can make a big difference to someone sleeping rough. Want to help? Volunteer today or make a donation.


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