Street youth cleaning up their acts, one at a time

2016-03-30 06:00
Most youth on the streets have drug problems and seek funds to support their habit each day. PHOTO: file

Most youth on the streets have drug problems and seek funds to support their habit each day. PHOTO: file

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SLOWLY but surely, the Living on the Streets (Lots) programme is helping those begging on street corners in the city, some being reunited with their families, rehabilitated from drugs and cleaning up their act.

“We have placed a small number of people back with their families. This involved family reunification work on the part of the social worker and usually several sessions with all the family members.

“We have a small number who will be attending a detox programme over the next month, and some who are ready for life-skills training, which is being negotiated with a local NGO,” said Debbie Harrison from Lots.

Harrison added that most youth on the streets have drug problems and seek funds to support their habit each day. She said that not all the people on the street are in the shelter.

“Unemployment is very high in this sector and sadly, each time we get the youth away from an area, some new youth takes their place and some of the existing people go back to the streets.

“Staying in the shelter is voluntary. We do have to have basic rules in the shelter and although we are tolerant and give people options, we do sometimes have to ask youth to leave the shelter,” she said.

Most of the youth are traumatised in some way and have been helped through counselling which has been provided to them by the full time social worker of Lots and an intern, with full time security provided by the municipality.

“Although we were initially anxious that we could not immediately begin programmes, in retrospect time to relax and begin to feel safe has helped many of the youth to re-evaluate their lives themselves,” said Harrison.

She added that when the Lots programme was started, expectations were realistic and they knew that many of the youth would take up to two years to get back on their feet and become productive citizens and that some would prefer to stay with what they know rather than risk change.

“Although slow, the project is definitely working. It would help if the public would stop providing funds and food to the youth on the streets and rather donate it to the shelter.

“It makes it complicated if the youth get fed on the streets because they don’t come back for dinner at the shelter and then come in at all hours and give the security a difficult time as they lock the door at 8pm,” said Harrison.

There are still about 35 youth at the shelter, although the number did drop over the festive season as there were some aggressive youth at the shelter who tended to bully others and had to be removed.

“This took us a bit of time to sort out and the situation is now calm and the house once again more of a home - they even have a kitty,” said Harrison.

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