Life of struggle turned around

AS a 17-year-old, Todd Patterson lived underneath a boardwalk at Invermay.

He and his brother had been kicked out of home, and, having fallen in with a rough crowd, found themselves in a spiral of petty crime and apathy.

"At night, there were about eight or nine of us, all huddling together under a blanket that the Salvos gave us," Patterson said.

"We were staying out the back of this church in the middle of town.

"We did some stupid stuff, breaking in to places, stealing ... I did some things I'm pretty embarrassed to think about now."

Now 22, Mr Patterson owns his own unit at Prospect, has dreams of owning his own KFC franchise, and now helps people who are going through their own tough times.

Wednesday was national Youth Homelessness Awareness Day.

Mr Patterson said he hoped his story would give people in a similar situation hope for a better life.

"A lot of the problem is you just teach yourself not to care," he said. "It's easier that way.

"But I was just sick of living like that. I had to decide to change."

At 18, while he was living underneath a boardwalk at Invermay, Mr Patterson applied for Centrelink.

"I budgeted myself $20 a day," he said.

"I'd go and spend $7 on a foot-long Subway sandwich for breakfast - you'd get a free drink too if you went to the one in town.

"The rest I'd spend on a pack of smokes and a $2 milkshake from Swirlz. That was my day."

Mr Patterson's employment agency noticed his potential, and referred him to non-profit youth organisation Whitelion.

With the help of employment co- ordinator Matt Brown, Mr Patterson started setting goals.

"He told me the harder I worked, the luckier I was going to get," he said.

"It was lot of little steps. Getting different qualifications. Work experience.

"It definitely wasn't a smooth transition, but I stuck to it."

In 2011, Mr Patterson joined the KFC Kings Meadows store as a team member, his first paid full-time job.

He is now the assistant manager at Mowbray KFC, and hopes to one day own his own franchise.

"I also bought my own unit, and I've had a few people staying with me who didn't have anywhere to go," he said.

Things are looking really good.

"You just need to have the right motivation and mindset."

Email adruce@examiner.com.auTwitter @AlexDruce1987

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