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Who do you talk to?

May 21, 2024

They turned up for support and to partake of the free barbecue lunch, but there were a few who preferred to hang out at the back of the group, too insecure and unsure to make their presence felt.

Living rough, some in tents, sleeping bags, cars or in inadequate housing in the nearby caravan park, the group were regulars at our Street Outreach Services’ gathering held in a park every Thursday in Aspley.

Our street outreach volunteer, Leanne, made sure to check in with each one of the patrons turning up for the barbeque.

“I recall, at one stage, I had asked one of them if they had any friends,” she said. “They told me they didn’t. So, I asked them, ‘well who do you talk to?’”

Their reply was stunning.


Leanne couldn’t believe that the only time some of them talked to anyone, and the only time they would hear someone say their name, was over that brief check-in chat with her and Drug ARM’s Jason once a week.

“I continued to talk to each of them and over time, I noticed the more isolated patrons started to become more comfortable with the group. Now when they turn up, they help out, laughing and joining in the conversations and they can see what they have to offer,” Leanne said.

“They have gone from being so alone and isolated to being accepted by the group, though it was sometimes slow progress. It’s good to see them feeling better about themselves and I know Drug ARM has played a big part in that.”

Leanne is one of Drug ARM’s longest serving Street Outreach Services volunteers, having served a total of eight years over two separate stints.

Previously, she had worked nightshifts at Lifeline where she provided crisis support over the phone. However, when she gave up the nightshifts due to some health issues, she said a huge hole had been left in her life.

She said she needed to do something with her skills to help people and so decided to return to volunteering at Drug ARM.

“While phone support had given me a lot of experience and skills, I really love the face-to-face outreach work,” she said.

“I don’t judge how they look or where they live… I come as a friend to show kindness and I want to be there for them so they don’t have to feel so alone.

“They always have a back story – you just never know a person’s history and what they’ve been through.

“After all the stories I’ve heard, I think I can’t be shocked any more, but then I am.”

Leanne’s compassion and understanding perhaps stems from her own lived experiences. She said some of her earliest memories were of alcohol and other drug misuse and associated violence which occurred in her childhood home.

“I think it’s why I can have real empathy for the struggles people have with alcohol and drugs and can understand the affect it has on the whole family,” she said.

She said she liked volunteering at the Thursday session in Aspley where a group of around 10 to 15 patrons would gather.

“It’s a pleasure to be there,” she said. “While they will talk about their darkest moments, and it is an honour that they share those with you, generally it is just an all-round great feeling as you get to see their strength and resilience and be amazed at what they can live through,” she said.

“There’s a real community feel to the group – they enjoy some banter and they like to support each other.”

Leanne said it was mostly herself and Jason from Drug ARM who would deliver the outreach on Thursdays, though sometimes they would be joined by university students on clinical placement.

She said it was easier to provide deeper support to a patron who might be experiencing a crisis or in distress if there were other volunteers present to assist with the check-ins.

Drug ARM is always on the lookout for new volunteers to assist with their Street Outreach Services, which are delivered across hotspots in Brisbane, Ipswich, Mackay and Maryborough and involve a mix of day and night patrols.

This National Volunteer Week, running 20-26 May, Drug ARM will thank our 175 volunteers who assist with outreach, Community and Family Support Services, intake and our Chill Out Zone at Schoolies Week on the Gold Coast.

Drug ARM’s Executive Director Brad Strong said that our volunteers were the backbone of our organisation and we can’t thank them enough for all that they do to make real, transformative differences in people’s lives.

More details about our outreach services can be found on our website, here.

To enquire about volunteering, call Drug ARM on 1300 656 800 or email

See the impact of your kindness through volunteering. Enquire today how you can get involved in street outreach.


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