Street kids on super highway
Article from: The Daily Telegraph
By Stephen Fenech
April 11, 2008 12:00am
HOMELESS youths will be able to contact their families thanks to a $300,000 initiative by the Salvation Army and mobile phone maker Nokia that brings the latest technology to the streets.
The volunteer-manned StreetConnect bus is filled with laptop computers, wireless internet access and mobile phones and is powered by solar panels and its own generator.
Salvation Army Oasis Youth Support Network spokesman Andrew White said the bus was designed to cut through the digital divide which is isolating disadvantaged and homeless youth.
"Young kids can come on board and send and receive emails and look on the internet for accommodation and other support services," he said.
"Sending an email to mum or dad is a lot less confronting than picking up the phone. There have been some instances where sending an email has seen a family reconnection."
Mr White said many of the youths Oasis meets on the street had left their homes for their own safety.
"A lot of the kids that come to Oasis have got pretty horrendous backgrounds," he said.
"They might have drug or alcohol dependent mother and/or father or are the victims of physical or sexual abuse."
StreetConnect travels the streets of Sydney and the Central Coast seven nights a week and can reach up to 300 people per night.
Mr White said the bus made it possible for Oasis to travel to the points of need rather than sitting back and waiting for youth to come to them.
"We go to the usual congregation places where the young will hang out on the streets and the word spreads," he said.
"They know when StreetConnect comes around on a particular night and a particular area.
"We can address the immediate needs with food and clothing and a bed and the longer term needs which could be things like education, training, employment and of course counselling as well."
Mr White said the StreetConnect bus could also help Oasis to make contact with a youth at an early stage before more serious problems developed.
"It’s all about prevention and early intervention," he said.
"If we can encourage just one of these kids to come back to Oasis it’s a way of preventing them falling through the cracks."
Nokia Australia general manager Shaun Colligan said he was delighted to work with Oasis to help to support young people.
"For Nokia, it has always been a core value for us to contribute in a positive way to the community and the StreetConnect bus is a way for us to realise our vision of the importance of connecting people," he said.