For many young people in Hamilton, Saturday night equals city streets, empty carparks and unstructured freedom. The Zeal Hamilton Street Youth Work team sees these kids as passionate, creative teenagers looking to connect with their community.
Since December 2016, a group of volunteers and staff have hit the streets every Saturday night, proactively looking for young people in need. Mainly focussing on the Night Markets and surrounding areas, these are environments where young people are known to experiment with their freedom in high volume and potentially unsafe areas.
“It’s essential that youth know they are potential to be harnessed, not a problem to be solved,” says Josh Vossen, Street Youth Work Co-ordinator. “We have been able to provide safety, security, and positive engagement opportunities for young people who otherwise would feel a lot more alone and disengaged from their environment.”
The core team hanging out in Garden Place over Christmas.
As well as organising activities for those in the area – basketball, touch, dance battles – the team offers assistance to anyone that needs it. Over the last few months, they have been able to support drunk individuals, stop and diffuse multiple fights, and work with the local Police & CitySafe in ensuring the CBD is a safe space for everyone.
Building upon the platform that Zeal has learned through similar programmes run in Auckland and Wellington, the Hamilton team believe they’ll be able to make big strides in reducing youth crime, creating engagement and support for young people, and advocating for community strengths-based approaches to young people which will see them contributing to the vibrant environment that is Hamilton.
If you would like to learn more or get involved with the programme, contact the SYW coordinator in Hamilton, Josh. You can also follow the SYW team on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat (SYWhamilton) to keep in the loop.