The Timaru Herald | Wednesday, 24 October 2007
Teenagers living on the streets have prompted investigations into establishing a safe house in Timaru.
District youth worker Kirsty Henderson said that since she started the job in March, she could not think of a time when she wasn’t dealing with at least one person who had no home to go to.
"I could place four young people in accommodation today."
Some had been kicked out by their parents, others had no support, some had moved into the area from the North Island, and others did not have a close-knit family to fall back on.
Teenagers were wandering the streets at night, sleeping in church doorways or garages, and one girl had been sleeping under the piazza steps. Some had not eaten or showered for days.
Youth workers would try to find accommodation, usually boarding, but that was often easier to do for young men. There was sometimes a reluctance to take on a young woman, in order to avoid the risk of false sex allegations.
Sometimes the situation available might not be the best, but was the best that was available at the time.
"What we are looking at now is finding a house that we can have a supervisor in for short to mid-term emergency accommodation, just to get them on their feet.
"These people are not getting their basic needs met. They have no roof over their heads or food in their tummies, so we can’t move them forward. Their level of anxiety and stress is so high, they don’t know where they are from one day to the next."
Ms Henderson said many people in Timaru would be unaware that there were young people with nowhere to live.
The Ministry of Youth Development was helping to fund accommodation for youth in Christchurch, and a meeting will be held next week with the ministry to discuss a similar scenario for Timaru.
Timaru police youth aid officer Paul Davis said the flip side of the situation was young people choosing not to live at home, because they didn’t like the rules of the household.
"I’ve been dealing with some mothers lately who are saying they are unhappy with the way their sons are behaving. The sons are telling mum to get stuffed, and leaving. So it’s sometimes not a matter of having nowhere to live, it’s not being prepared to live according to the rules of the house.
"The ones I have been dealing with, the rules are quite flexible, they’re not unreasonable."
Mr Davis said he had dealings with one girl who was not prepared to live at home, despite the fact it was a nice house, with nice parents. She had been found living in a friend’s parents’ sleepout, with the property owners unaware of her presence.
"The question should always be asked, are they welcome at home, or are they saying they don’t like the rules?
"There are some genuine cases, for whatever reason, but there is a flip side to it."