Damian Vanderwolf had to grow up a lot more quickly than most. First there was the homophobic bullying at school. Then, at 15, Vanderwolf was forced by his violent mother to leave his home in country NSW.
For a teenager coming to terms with his sexuality, escaping to the city seemed the only option.
But Sydney life wasn’t quite what Vanderwolf expected as he shared a flat with his twin brother and four others in the early 1990s.
I was living off benefits and trying to study and trying to do part-time work and it really wasn’t financially viable and the house kind of fell through, Vanderwolf told Sydney Star Observer.
Then I found myself in a situation where I had no savings and no prospect as to where I might be able to live because I didn’t really know anybody in Sydney except my twin brother.
My twin brother had already contacted Twenty10 and they let him come and stay. They actually didn’t have any more room in the house because my brother had taken the last room, but because we were twins they decided it would be a good idea if I stayed there.
It was probably a good thing because I honestly have no idea what would have happened to me at that point.
With stable accommodation, Vanderwolf went on to complete high school in Sydney, finishing at the top of his class.
Twenty10 instilled a great deal of confidence in me and made me feel that my life was worthwhile, he said.
Now 28 and with a social science degree, Vanderwolf is a Twenty10 board member and one of the organisation’s major success stories as it celebrates its 25th anniversary.
Twenty10 started in 1981, helping young gay men who were homeless or doing sex work.
It now helps hundreds of young GLBT people and their families each year deal with issues such as homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse and mental health, Twenty10 executive officer Meredith Turnbull told the Star.
There are still young people who are either kicked out or feel that they have to leave their home or their community because of their sexual or gender identity, she said.
As part of the anniversary celebrations, Twenty10 will auction items including lunch for three with High Court justice Michael Kirby and a full-page colour advertisement in the Star at a Celebrating In Silver fundraising event next Friday.
It is the generosity of the community that fosters the growth of Twenty10, so that we can support and assist more young people in need, Turnbull said.
The Celebrating In Silver event is on Friday 20 October from 7pm at Twenty10, 45 Bedford St, Newtown. The cover donation is $25. More information or RSVP on 8594 9560.