Ex­press is at risk

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - By KRIS DANDO

The clock is tick­ing for Mid­night Ex­press, the youth ser­vice fac­ing an un­cer­tain fu­ture un­less fund­ing can be found in the com­ing weeks.

The pro­gramme kicked off in July 2009 and has been hailed by Porirua City Coun­cil, po­lice and lo­cal com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions as a suc­cess story. At its peak, eight youth work­ers were em­ployed, go­ing out on Fri­day and Satur­day nights be­tween 10pm and 4am, check­ing ‘‘hot spots’’, pri­mar­ily in east­ern Porirua, where young peo­ple con­gre­gate and drink.

They would trans­port kids home if re­quired, talk to them about so­cial is­sues they might be fac­ing, ask if they were go­ing to school and, lat­terly, dis­cussing sex­ual health mat­ters.

Funded via Min­istry of Youth De­vel­op­ment (MYD) and sup­port­ing grants, it is still be­ing ad­min­is­tered by the coun­cil.

Youth worker and Mid­night Ex­press team leader Kim Barn­den es­ti­mates they have spo­ken to 6000 young peo­ple on the streets of Porirua in just over two years. But the ser­vice is un­der a cloud, with fund­ing from MYD no longer guar­an­teed as it tight­ens its own bud­gets.

Mean­while, the coun­cil made a de­ci­sion ear­lier this year it would no longer ad­min­is­ter Mid­night Ex­press.

‘‘In a nut­shell, we have plenty of uncer­tainty,’’ Ms Barn­den says. The ser­vice only op­er­ates with four youth work­ers.

‘‘We can’t sit un­der [the coun­cil’s um­brella] any more so we have un­til Oc­to­ber 14 to sort it out. We’re eval­u­at­ing how we can con­tinue at the mo­ment, widen­ing our net to look at dif­fer­ent pos­si­bil­i­ties.’’

Ms Barn­den says be­ing independent of PCC may come as a bless- ing, as they will be able to oper­ate ‘‘neu­trally’’ from lo­cal and cen­tral govern­ment. They are talk­ing to Porirua Healthy Safer City Trust as a po­ten­tial fund­ing source and, for now, are still ‘‘do­ing what we do’’ on Fri­day and Satur­day nights.

‘‘We’re mak­ing a lot of in­roads and open­ing doors, giv­ing solid guid­ance and ad­vice and feed­ing back to CYFS, re­gional pub­lic health and po­lice. We still want to be able to raise is­sues quickly and have that unique po­si­tion of be­ing neu­tral.’’

Mid­night Ex­press’ non­judg­men­tal ap­proach has found favour with a num­ber of par­ents, in­clud­ing Kiri, whose 14-year-old son was al­ways sneak­ing out, of­ten to drink with friends.

‘‘We don’t want him to go out but he does. The Mid­night Ex­press guys have helped us look for him at times, and dropped him off [home] other times. They speak to him about stuff we can’t and it’s cool be­cause they don’t judge, they have a smile on their face and al­ways say ‘con­tact us 24/7 if you need help with him’.’’

Porirua City Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Gary Simp­son went out with Mid­night Ex­press one night re­cently.

He says he could see its ben­e­fits, but coun­cil­lors have made the de­ci­sion not to fund it and ‘‘ given our com­pet­ing pres­sures it is not some­thing we will be in­volved in’’.

Mr Simp­son says it is ‘‘ex­tremely pos­si­ble’’ that the ser­vice could func­tion un­der a non-govern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tion rather than PCC.

Kiri says it would be ‘‘a real loss’’ if Mid­night Ex­press shut down.

‘‘Kids tend to grow up so quick and it’s hard for par­ents some­times. To know Mid­night Ex­press was out there felt good, they of­fer sup­port and the kids all speak re­ally highly of them.’’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.