By Linda Daniele
A project aimed at keeping young people off Sydney streets is in danger of being shut down because of a lack of ongoing funding.
The Kings Cross Youth at Risk Project was allocated funds by the NSW State Government in 2005, but is set to cease in June this year. Critical work in the area will not be able to continue until the Government agrees to supply additional funding.
‘It would be a real shame to let it go,’ project co-ordinator, Cindi Pererson said. ‘Co-ordination [of social service providers] would fall apart if there was not a central hub like Kings Cross Youth at Risk.’
The project was initially developed in response to an independent review that found the provision of local youth services was erratic and co-ordination between agencies was poor.
An outreach co-ordination committee was launched with representatives from organisations operating in the Kings Cross area, including the Oasis Youth Support Network and Street Outreach Service by the Salvation Army, the Kirketon Road Centre, The Crossing, Rough Edges, the Wayside Chapel and the City of Sydney’s Woolloomooloo Youth Program.
A brokerage program of payments was also established to meet the emergency and more complex needs of young people. Over two years from July 2005, the Kings Cross Youth at Risk Project’s brokerage program made around 350 payments to young people. A total of $100,000 a year over the two-year period was provided, with close to half of that amount being spent.
‘The key issues identified through brokerage payments were housing, support for pregnant young women or young parents, health and medical needs and moving out of the area,’ according to Ms Peterson, who implemented and monitored the brokerage program.
Joint outreach ‘sweeps’ were also conducted as part of the Youth At Risk Project, with outreach workers from participating organisations on the streets of Kings Cross from 8pm until 2am locating and surveying young people ‘at risk’.
Ms Peterson said the regular outreach sweeps over a 12-month period, which saw around 250 young people interviewed, kept service providers in the Kings Cross area informed about current needs and allowed for direct assistance. ‘Another outcome was improved relationships between agencies because they worked in partnership and it established common ground,’ she said.
The report on the findings of the joint outreach sweeps estimated that 45 per cent of the young people interviewed were in ‘unstable accommodation’, including shelters, refuges, boarding houses, hostels, homeless, on the street, or unsure about where they would be spending the night.
Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore MP this month questioned the NSW Premier in Parliament about how the Government will ensure the work continues. The City of Sydney was a member of the steering committee and has provided three grants since 2005 to support the work.
‘Kings Cross and the inner city are where so many young people live desperate and vulnerable existences, pushed into illegal activities and exploited,’ Ms Moore said. ‘It’s vital that we try to break that cycle and give them a chance to get their lives together.’
Australia’s Youth Homeless report, released last week, identified nearly 5,000 young people homeless in NSW and 22,000 across Australia.
‘The cost of not helping calculated at more than half a billion dollars,’ Ms Moore said. ‘Projects like the Kings Cross Youth at Risk Project help people get back on their feet and save money.’