If you’re looking to combine your love of cycling with a worthwhile cause, you can chose from a lot of great charity rides these days. New rides are being started all over Australia.
Eleven years ago, we started the Bicycling Australia Challenge, now known as the Sydney to Hunter. Both the event name and the charity’s name have changed. Teen Challenge is now One80TC. But their purpose remains unchanged.
So far, this event has raised about one million dollars, with a significant portion of this coming from Bicycling Australia readers. So what’s One80TC all about and what do they do with the money?
If you’re a long time reader of Bicycling Australia, you may recall previous stories about One80TC, but we thought it was a good time to go back up to their bushland campus at the base of the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney and see how things were going.
One80TC turns lives around. They take in young men who have histories of drug addiction and other serious problems.
Centre Manager Gail Davies gave us an update and guided tour.
“In our program right now we have 40 beds available, plus 10 internship spots. When someone comes into the program, we start an induction phase. We talk about the stages of change. We talk about addiction. We look at what’s called ‘sleep hygiene’. For a lot of people that come in, they have their days and nights mixed up, they’ve been drug or alcohol induced for a long period of time so when they’re coming off these, their sleep is disrupted, so we teach them about how to get a good night’s sleep.
“Mental health is the other aspect of this. There’s a lot of psychosis that comes with the type of drugs that are out there. There’s depression and anxiety. You just don’t know what you’re going to get when you get someone coming off these drugs.
“Now while we’re a Christian based program, not everything we hand out to them is scripture and all that stuff, because we are still teaching them Godly principles but we’re not here to stuff God down their throats. That still has to be a free choice.
“A long-term program can go anywhere between nine and 12 months. It just depends on the person and what is going on in their lives and how well they engage in the beginning. We just had a guy that has finished with us who was here for 15 months. He had been exited out of the program a couple of times for bad behaviour but he came back and was able to complete what he was doing.
“We have a very structured program between Monday and Friday. We set times, so they know what time they have to get out of bed in the morning. We’ve got house duties that everyone participates in—cleaning to working in the kitchen, taking out garbage, mopping floors, washing windows, whatever.
“Yes, we do have our procedures and our policies, but it’s more emotional. It’s a lot better to take a guy out on the oval and have a talk with him rather than sitting in an office having a talk.
A Day in the Life
“We do sport two days per week. We either do it here on site or we take the guys into Richmond or to an oval where they can play footy or soccer or something like that.
“Once they finish that six week induction program they go on to our long term program. The only thing that really changes is the time slot that they had for inductions is then for personal study. Personal study is where we develop individual contracts for each person, based on what their needs and based on what some of their goals might be. We bring all that together for them on a monthly time track.
“There will be books that they have to read, there may be things that we’ll put on their iPods to listen to. There maybe hand outs that we’ve given to them that they’ve got to read and fill in the blanks kind of stuff. So it’s tailor made for each person and where they’re at.
“We’ve got a set list of those things that have to happen every day of the week. Everyone has to make their beds. We have room inspection. The bedrooms have a certain standard that they have to be in by 9am in the morning. If not we have discipline hours. Discipline hours are where they may be given a task to mow the lawn, or the oval or it could be raking up leaves. Mal’s quite creative in what he comes up with for discipline. So there’s a different range of things that we do.
“We try to have a minimum of one hour per week that the student has with his caseworker. That is different for each caseworker and how they work. It may be 10 minutes today and 10 minutes tomorrow, and then half an hour another day. It may be two hours in a day. It just depends upon what the needs of the student are.
“Guys when they first come in are very needy. Needing a lot of time to talk with the people and kind of just ‘off load’ what’s going on in their lives. And I guess, being heard for the first time. And then just building a relationship with the caseworker. That’s a big thing for us.
“Most of the people who come in here have severely broken relationships with people. We get people all the time that are shut down, that just don’t communicate. They just grunt or answer, “Yes.” or “No.”
“We get people that are angry. We get all kinds of people in here, but the relationship that they build with their caseworker is really the key to them moving forward, because they’d rather not trust people. To start trusting someone is huge for a lot of these guys.
“That is one of the big things that I think makes us different. We have that ability to truly build relationships. We’re not limited like in other rehabs where they’ve got set procedures and prescribed methods that they have to follow. Yes, we do have our procedures and our policies—certain things that we have to do in terms of dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s, but it’s more emotional. It’s a lot better to take a guy out on the oval and have a talk with him rather than sitting in an office having a talk. You’ll find a lot of these guys just won’t open up. Or even getting out and working alongside the guys, you’ll have better conversation with the person by doing something with them than you will sitting in an office. That’s a key part of what we do, building relationships between the guys and their caseworkers.
“In terms of staff, we have five caseworkers on board right now, so that’s eight students per caseworker. Our caseworkers are all male. The only issue with that is that some people, even though they’re one physical body, can take up the time of two or three people depending on how messy they are. That is always an issue for us in terms of trying to find that balance that a caseworker doesn’t end up with all eight guys being entirely demanding people that need the attention all day long.
“We do clinical meetings once per week. In those clinical meetings we actually go through every student in the program and how they’re going. Are they engaging or are they not engaging? Are they struggling with reading and writing? Do we need to help them with that? Are they not sleeping well? Are they under medicated? Are they over medicated? What are their goals? How long are they going through their contract?
“And so out of that, talking as a team, if someone is struggling with a particular guy, everyone’s got something they can contribute that maybe we can try a different method with that person. Team is really, really important here.
“We have someone here 24 hours a day seven days a week. There’s someone that does sleepover shifts. We do room checks three times a night to make sure everyone is where their supposed to be.
“An intern here is someone who has gone through our program, has had some good success and has a heart to help people. They’re on a one year internship. They can live here on site or they can live somewhere else if they want to. We’ve got a few here that are doing both. We ask that they give us 32 hours a week, volunteering their time. We take them through the process of hands on working alongside staff, learning how to do casework, medication—everything a regular staff member would do. We take them through that training. Then we also work with them to get their Certificate Four in AOD (Alcohol and Other Drugs). So when they leave here they’ve actually got a qualification to work somewhere else.
“But we do try to keep the very best interns and we have hired some of them. My second in charge, my Program Coordinator, he came through the program, did his internship, got his Certificate Four AOD and he’s now running all the day to day operations.
“The intern program is extended accountability for these guys. Because one of the unfortunate things that happens is that when they go to leave here, they aren’t necessarily fully integrated back to the community. They have had their weekend leave, but stepping out and not having anyone telling you what time you’ve got to get out of bed in the morning and doing this and that is a whole transition. Unless a person is really connected well into a church and has supporting people around him, a lot of these guys will eventually fall back into their old ways. So we really try to work with these guys setting up new networks because it’s like anything you go back to, you may be strong for a while but eventually little bits start creeping back in.
“We have an aftercare staff. We’ve got three people part time that support these guys after they leave. Before they leave, we have a meeting with that person and explain how we will be following up with them with phone calls, based on what they want. If they don’t want phone calls, we won’t impose upon them but we will call them as frequently as they need us to, to make sure they still have a place to live, are they working, are they going to school, how are they dealing with their drug or alcohol problem. We just keep encouraging them.
“We also go and visit people in prison. Because we get a lot of guys that maybe find us here but then leave too soon, and go back to prison. We stay in contact with those people too.
“We get a lot of people leaving and then a few months later they realise it is really good here and they want to come back. So we do get people who want to come back. We just reassess them—where they’re at, what’s going on, any changes in their drug usage, any changes in their legal status. Because a lot of the guys get rearrested for other things and them they’ve got a bigger mess on their hands.
“We always ask them before you ever do a search, “Do you have any needles or anything in there that you need to tell me about first?” Most people are pretty good. We’ve had a few people saying they’ve got a knife in there. So as long as we know what’s in there we’ll take it and depending on what the knife is, we’ll hold that for them until they’re released from our program.”
Training and Isolation
One80TC is located in the foothills of the Blue Mountains about 1 ½ hours’ drive north west of Sydney.
It’s isolated bush setting, at the end of a dirt road, surrounded by wilderness, is perfect for young men who need to let of steam and live separated from the temptations of their usual world. But it makes it difficult to attract volunteers.
“Most people don’t want to come out here because of the distance and so that’s why we’ve been trying to tap into the local community rather than people too far away. Volunteers have been a difficult one for us, we don’t seem to be able to retain volunteers for very long because they come out here a couple of times and it’s forty five minutes to an hour to drive for a lot of people depending on what area they’re coming from.
“We have an arrangement with TAFE to come out one day a week and give training.
One woman comes to teach literacy and numeracy.
Another trainer brings out laptops, and he’ll run a class.
When you see all of these guys sitting down learning how to save a document and have their laptops up and running, it’s a very fulfilling feeling to see that these guys are growing in confidence. Some of these guys struggle to even turn the laptop on let alone saving a document.
“They also get training in horticulture.
“Local businesses are starting to come alongside us.”
Some of the rules may seem strict.
“They get one phone call a week, 15 minutes. They can call two or three people in 15 minutes but 15 minutes is the limit. We do pay for those calls.
“With people that have children, we give them a little bit more leniency. We establish before they come in, ‘Are they in close contact with their kids before they even come here?’ All of a sudden some of these guys are like, ‘My poor kids I need to talk to them all the time!’ Well that could just be an excuse. So those that have children and have had good previous contact, we allow them five minutes per child per night. Because we often see that a lot of these kids are quite traumatised when a parent leaves the home. And they still just need that reassuring voice on the other end of the line.
“We do couples counselling. We’re running an Alan Meyer marriage counselling program. We’ve also started a program called Connections, which we just started last year and it teaches people about relationships. First we just have the guys deal with relationships and that gets them thinking about relationships with their partners. Then if they want to go on and have counselling we get their partner to come out here and we’ll do couples counselling with them.
“We also do a parenting class for the guys where we start teaching them the basics about how to be a good parent, discipline and values.
Other things that we do in the program are Valiant Man, Search for Life, Search for Intimacy. We also run a Boundaries program. This is really, good because most of these guys have no clue what boundaries are, so we found that to be a real important class.
“A lot of the agencies and Government departments that you get funding through give you a zero limit on Christian stuff. They try and give you a hard time, so you’ve just got to be careful on how you present that.
“One of the things we are doing is engaging the University of Western Sydney to do a research paper for us. So they’ll come out and do a qualitative and quantitative assessment and research on that whole side of the program and interview caseworkers and guys. They’ll give us results at the end. To have stuff like that really supports your application for grants. It gives you third party credibility.
“Where there is violence, it’s an exit. It’s more than just the guys directly involved, it’s the whole community. They’re all watching how we manage. Straight away if you compromise someone they say, “What about Mick last week? You didn’t do this to him!”
“So we have rules, if we exit someone, it’s always with the thought that we’ve got to get them back in. So we give them one, two or three months then they can reapply and get back in. It also depends on what’s going on for that person. If they’ve got a history of violence and that keeps coming out, it might be a 90 day exit from the program.
“We have a community meeting pretty well straight after the event. Get all the guys out, sit them in a circle then some will go, “You shouldn’t have done that, it was wrong.” So they sort of debate amongst themselves and work it out. We just have some of the caseworkers there to steer them in the right direction.
“They get an exit plan if they’re going out on a discipline exit. We look at a relapse prevention plan. We look at them submitting drug testing to us while they’re out. We give them work that they can actually do while they’re out and depending on, at the end of that 30 day or 90 day period, depending upon whether they’ve done any of that, we may or may not take them back. Someone that’s really motivated will do some of that. We don’t expect them to do all of it.
“And you know what, if they’re doing a drug test and it comes back positive, that’s alright, at least they’ve done the drug test. We know that they’re going to have problems when they go out.
“The hardest thing for us is that when these guys are playing up, this is the place they need to be and not out there. But sometimes it’s hard to balance. Is it the one? Or is it the other 39? If it’s that one person who is negatively affect the other 39, they’re the one who has to go for some period of time.
“We also have levels of discipline here on site called the grace bubble. When they first come in they’ll be swearing and not quite serious about some of our guidelines. They’ll get reminded a lot of times. You can tell when someone’s blatanly swearing versus someone that is just flipping out. It may just be reminders in the beginning and then it might be work discipline. ‘You’re going to need to give me a couple of hours because of the little fit that you just threw.’ So we try to look at the situation for everyone’s individual circumstances and that’s really hard.
“And that’s the hard thing, being consistent. One staff member can do things one way and the other do another way. That’s why we do a lot of team meetings. Every morning, our staff meets here at 8am for up to an hour. We go through what happened the previous night from the last time we got together, or previous day or the weekend. So every day of the week we do that. We talk about any incidents that have come up and what we’re going to do. That maybe when a caseworker pulls the guy aside and getting the whole story about what went down, because there’s always multiple sides to every story and we talk to other people that may be involved. Then we decide from there as a team what the next step is. Is that something we call strike? We have a three strikes and you’re out policy. It takes a lot to get a strike unless it’s aggression that just totally out of control. We’ve had bad fights where there’s guys we’ll never take back because the aggression was so horrific.
Mark Hill explained the dilemma of cigarette smoking. Almost all drug addicts smoke. It’s just another drug addiction, but should a rehab program allow it?
“They get to smoke six times a day in a controlled environment. We administer the cigarettes. Before I came here, we had a ‘no smoking’ policy—you come in here, and you don’t smoke. The issue with that is you’re expect addicts who are through the roof to start with. If you take that away from them they’re orbiting! We get a lot of guys ring up and as soon as they find out they can’t smoke, “I’m not coming!” So we thought, ‘Why are we being so ‘holy than thou’ to say they can’t smoke and miss the opportunity to get their life restarted. There’s plenty of people I know at church I’ve seen having a cigarette and we don’t worry about that. So it was a double standard to ban smoking here.
“We also don’t take anyone that has been charged with sex offences, even though you supposed to be not guilty until proven guilty. Anyone that is a registered sex offender—we will not bring those into the program. The reason for that is a couple of things. One is that we just don’t have the training that those people need. It takes specific type of counselling. But also out of respect for our neighbours.
“If our neighbours thought that we were allowing those kind of people into this area you don’t know what might happen. You see what already goes on in the media when people find out they have sex offenders living in their area. So we just don’t go anywhere near that. That’s probably the major thing that we stay away from in terms of crime.
“We’ve had all kinds of people in here and I think what we see is that people are capable of changing. Most of them. Some have been brain damaged but you know what you can be amazed what God can do with some of those guys, and some of it’s time too.
“We’re under no illusion that 12 months is enough time in reality to get guys fully rehabilitated. You’ve got guys who’ve been in prison or been on drugs for 10 years, you’re dreaming if you think you’re going to fix them up totally in 12 months.
“We just try to sow into them some good foundation principles about making wise choices and boundaries and circle of friends and all that type of stuff. To help them move forward in life and get them to work. Stop them from being idle. It’s idle hands that create mischief. We’ve got guys who’ll get clean, but waiting at home for them is a wife or a spouse who’s on cocaine or doing other drugs. So they’re going to walk straight back into it.
“We’re been pretty motivated about getting some micro business enterprise happening here so we can generate our own return. The great thing about it is that we can have these guys in the program for 12 months and then if they’re of the calibre we want we can move them into the intern program for another 12 months and then after another 12 months we can move them into working in the micro enterprise. So you’ve got an umbrella three over the life of someone. So you should be able to get some great foundations and rehabilitation in their lives then—with family and jobs and just their own self-esteem. Some of the guys want to work but just don’t believe they are capable of doing it. They get out there and surprise themselves. You’ve just got to champion them.
Return on Investment
Mark Hill explained the budget, “Our total budget is a bit over $2 million per year. About 18% of it comes from the government and the rest comes through fundraising, mum and dad sponsors and some corporate donations which have been very few and far between recently.”
How do you measure success? Mal Feebrey reflected upon the results that this financial investment, combined with experienced, compassionate staff and volunteers can achieve.
“I suppose you look at success on about five or six levels.
Whether they’re integrated with a the church. Whether they’re drug free. Whether they’re renewing their abilities to say engage in further education. Their level of family harmony. Whether they’re happy to have follow up done on them.
“We alumni, postgraduate functions here and we encourage them to attend. These are the guys who take the calls, but not just take the calls, they make the calls and tell you they’re going alright. They ring up and ask if you would be a referee for a job. You’ll see them at church. They’ll phone you and you’ll hear really, really good reports.
“Some guys for instance may have never worked, so the measure of success on those guys would be actually getting a job and hold it down.
“It’s one of those things too that is really hard to measure because you don’t know what you’ve sown into their lives that’s going to click once they leave here.
“We are keeping statistics on have they lapsed or relapsed since the last time we talked to them? Last year’s stats showed that we had a 67% grouping of people that had not actually relapsed, one year on, which is amazing because the average rehab statistics are 3%. It’s horrible out there in the world, so 67% is a lot.
“The great part is that because of the relationship these guys have built, they know they can call here and they’ll have someone they can connect with. I know the caseworkers are managing more than just their eight guys here, but because of the rapport that they build, they get calls for years from these guys. It’s not always good news—we get calls from goal all the time. But to have 67% rate after a year is very very good.
To enter or find out more, visit www.one80tc.org