At 17, Harry Sanders was living on the streets. Now, he is the millionaire director and founder of SEO agency StudioHawk.
The now-25-year-old is also an ambassador for the Lighthouse Foundation, who helped him get back on his feet when he was struggling.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Millionaire who lived on the streets as a teen now raising awareness for youth mental health and homelessness.
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Sanders is now an ambassador for the Lighthouse Foundation and hopes to raise awareness about and advocate for the growing number of youth dealing with homelessness.
It was the support he received from organisations like the Lighthouse Foundation and his social worker that ensured he was able to succeed, Sanders told The Latest for National Homelessness Week.
Support is vital for people dealing with mental health issues and homelessness, he said.
“Like any self-made story,” he said. “I wasn’t very self-made.”
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It’s estimated nearly a quarter of Australia’s homeless population is aged between 12 and 24-years-old.
People probably didn’t realise how widespread homelessness was, Sanders said.
“It’s an insanely large amount of the population that are experiencing that homelessness,” he said.
“Having more support for me, and for those experiencing homelessness, is literally a game changer.
“If you can help these people within the first year of them being on the streets, it makes a massive difference in their ability to have a normal life.”
Harry Sanders (left) slept on the streets when he was 17-years-old. Credit: 7NEWS
Things like getting a job and feeling safe were made easier when you’re not dealing with a lot of the mental difficulties that come with experiencing homelessness for longer than a year, Sanders said.
“Mental health is a big part of being on the streets,” he said. “You feel like baggage, you feel like a burden, there’s a lot of anxiety.”
There was a stigma attached to being homeless, Saunders said, and it makes people feel like they can’t talk about what they’re going through.
“All of that plays into your mental health, especially when you’re walking past people, and they look away from you in disgust,” he said.
“That all just makes that mental health conversation even more difficult.”
Harry Sanders is now the director and founder of SEO agency StudioHawk. Credit: 7NEWS
It is “encouraging” that the government has announced plans to develop a new National Housing and Homelessness Plan, Sanders said.
The plan aims to help more Australians access safe and affordable housing, with a large focus on the creation of new homes.
“I think they are making steps towards rectifying a situation that’s getting worse in Australia,” he said.
But while it was a positive step to ensure new housing was being built, Sanders said there needed to be a focus on supporting people in other ways.
“I think we need to put in some metrics around getting people housed within that imminent one-year period,” he said. “Especially young people.”
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Even simply from an economic perspective, he said, it takes an enormous amount of funding to support someone who has severe mental health issues that are “mounting and mounting”.
“It just gets harder and harder,” he said.
“I think there needs to be some more mental health support.
“It’s something that’s very key for people on the street.
“You can provide housing to people, but if you can’t fix their mental health, that’s only one part of the problem.
“We need to make sure that there’s adequate mental health support, (and) social workers (and) support workers around, to help these young people and these homeless people.”
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