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The largest celebration of young people in Australia, Youth Week, will be held from April 1 – 10 this year. According to the Wesley Mission Newcastle Youth Service (WMNYS), a function of Youth Week in Newcastle is to also acknowledge the challenges facing local youths.

Greg Colby, Wesley Mission Newcastle Regional Manager, says, “Our young people are getting hit from all angles at the moment. After-effects of the financial crisis, high unemployment and severely restricted rental housing markets in Newcastle, the Hunter and Lake Macquarie make it hard for youths who have left the family home to re-establish themselves.

“This is seriously affecting the level of homelessness, drug abuse, violence and crime we are seeing on the streets,” Greg comments.

The WMNYS is Newcastle’s longest running youth outreach group, comprising a team of youth workers who speak with people in distress every day.

Greg says, “Young people in the Hunter need our assistance now more than ever. It is estimated there are more than 1000 homeless young people under 25 years in Newcastle, approximately 500 – 600 of which are aged 12-18 years[1].”

The WMNYS team will learn more about the problems facing youths while attending Youth Week events this year. Events include the Inaugural Awabakal Indigenous Youth Cultural Festival (Newcastle Foreshore, April 9), and Youth Homelessness Matters Street Soccer (Newcastle PCYC, Broadmeadow, April 7).

Youth Week will also kick-start the WMNYS expansion program.

A recent donation from corporate sponsor Xstrata Coal enabled the service to hire a new Youth Outreach Worker and buy a Street Smart Van. Hitting the streets in May, the van will target hot spots and become a place to connect with young people.

Greg says, “A contribution of $135,000 from Xstrata Coal was purely for us to buy the van and appoint a new worker. Over 1800 young people were assisted in some manner by WMNYS last year. With these valuable new resources that number will be greatly increased.”

Anyone interested in talking to the Wesley Newcastle Youth Service should contact 02 4962 2188.

[1]Counting the Homeless study, Homelessness NSW, 2006.‘Homelessness’ is defined as both absolute, e.g. on the streets, and relative, e.g. temporary or emergency accommodation or boarding house

Published: Mar 29, 2011 2:05pm by allypr.

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