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Young People Step Up To Prevent Youth Homelessness

Young people are stepping up to prevent youth homelessness.

Kick Back’s Rangatira Rōpū, a group made up of young people with lived experience of homelessness, have worked hard to design and develop Kick Back’s latest innovation, The Front Door. Together, they are building a space that can meet the needs of other young people who experience homelessness and hoping to prevent other rangatahi from going through what they themselves experienced.

“We know that Youth Homelessness doesn’t need to exist”, say’s Aaron Hendry, co-founder of Kick Back, “In many cases young people are experiencing homelessness because we have just not designed our systems to meet their needs. We have young people living on our streets, in cars, and just in inhumane and unsafe conditions, because of it. This is why Kick Back has built this project with our young people, ensuring that their voices are at the heart of this Kaupapa, leading and guiding it, to ensure that as we build this project, it will be equipped to meet their needs.”

“It’s really important to have services that are based around lived experience to actually be effective.” Agrees Mark, a young man with lived experience of homelessness and part of Kick Back’s Rangatira Rōpū. “People aren’t homeless because they’re stupid or aren’t trying hard enough. They experience homelessness because we have let the gaps grow in our society and in our systems.”

Mark especially is concerned that young people are falling through the cracks in our mental health and disability system. Part of the reason he got involved in the project was to ensure that more young people don’t experience what he has experienced. He wants to prevent rangatahi from going into institutions, and believes that if we can intervene early, we can support young people by responding to what’s going on for them and preventing further harm occurring in their lives. “It [The Front Door] didn’t exist when I needed it, I feel like my life would have been a lot better if it did.”

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This is a sentiment that is shared by others in the Rangatira Rōpū.

“We wished we could have something like this when we were growing up, if this place was open, I would have had somewhere to go and ask for help.” Says Frankie, another of Kick Backs young leaders. Frankie, joined Kick Back because when he experienced homelessness he felt he had nowhere and no one he could turn to in order to get help. He’s now working to change that for other young people, so they won’t have to go through what he’s been through.

“This place is designed to give rangatahi a sense of belonging, a home they can come to.” Reflects Kahu, now 22, Kahu slept rough when she was a child and in her teens. Like her peers, she doesn’t believe homelessness needs to exist, she believes we can end it, and that is why she’s doing the mahi. “It’s inhumane, we have the resources in the world to give people the right support. It’s crazy. We allow money to overpower love. The only way we will achieve something is if we have love in our heart, we’re not here for profit. These spaces need to be open, our country will go downhill if we don’t give our kids a chance to grow, if all they are left with is a chance to survive to the next day. They tell us to get a job, but we work hard and don’t get called back. Poverty, drug use, it’s all connected. People kill themselves because they can’t house themselves. This will be an outreach (to our young people), to show them, a sign that we’re here for them and that they’re not alone. We are all the same, we’re all equal, and we all deserve to be noticed and loved.”

Aaron hopes that hearing the stories, and seeing the leadership of these rangatahi will spark Hope for others, reminding us all of the power we have as community, to build hope and to create change for our people.

“There is so much negative kōrero about our young people in public discourse at the moment. But you know what, our rangatahi are amazing. They are changing this world, they care, they are passionate, they aren’t allowing what’s happened to them, to define who they are or get in the way of them loving and caring for others. The Front Door is becoming reality because a group of young people came together and said, hey things aren’t the way they should be, let’s do something about it. That is powerful, that is community, that is how things change.

The challenges our communities are face are immense. And I think we are realizing that no Government can solve them for us. So, I think we’re learning we have a choice. We can continue to wait for the change to happen, or we can realize that We’re the One’s We’ve Been Waiting For, organize, build hope together, and become the change we want to see. That’s what these rangatahi have done, that is what The Front Door represents.”

The Front Door is a grass roots, community response to Youth Homelessness in Auckland Central. Codesigned with young people with lived experience of homelessness, The Front Door will be an outreach and early intervention centre, opening up access to youth mental health services, health care, housing support and advocacy to some of our most marginalized and disconnected young people in Auckland city.

Currently in Auckland there is no central space for young people to go if they are at-risk of homelessness. As a result, some of our most structurally marginalized children and young people are made vulnerable, slipping through the cracks, ending up on our streets, sleeping in cars, or trapped in dangerous and inhumane living situations.

“Kick Back believes that we can do better.” Share’s Aaron, “Youth Homelessness isn’t acceptable in our society, and so we refuse to accept it. That’s why Kick Back is building The Front Door because we believe that no young person should face homelessness alone. No child should be left to walk the streets without a safe place, and a safe person, to turn to. In fact, in Aotearoa New Zealand, Youth Homelessness just shouldn’t exist. So, we just want to do our bit to end it, to ensure that every young person, every child, has someone to reach out to when they need them, to love them, care for them, and stand with them through it all.”

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