Zeal Hamilton began piloting a 6-month Street Youth Work programme on the streets of Hamilton’s CBD in December 2016.
Each Saturday night, a group of volunteers and staff would hit the streets, proactively looking for young people in need. With a focus mainly on the Kmart Night Markets and the surrounding areas, the team built on the platform that Zeal has learned through similar programmes run from Zeal centres in Auckland and Wellington.
The Vital Waikato Grant has since enabled Hamilton’s Street Youth Work team to solidify the foundations of the project, which is Zeal’s catalyst for our ability to respond to the needs of young people on the streets of the city.
Each Saturday night, the Street Youth Work team offers assistance to any young people that needs it, as well as organising impromptu basketball and touch matches, and even dance battles. Since the project launched, the team have been able to support drunk individuals, diffuse and prevent multiple fights, drive stranded young people home, and work closely with local Police and CitySafe in enduring the CBD is a safe space for everyone.
Our young whanau hang about in the city, waiting for something to happen. At Zeal, we believe that young people live out the best story available to them, and our rangatahi on the streets have come to believe that their best story will instead happen to them, so they sit and they wait.
But our Street Youth Work team has seen just how responsive our young people are to love, to youth workers who don’t take themselves too seriously, and to a non-judgmental voice that calls out their potential. And, to Zeal, it is essential that young people know that they are potential to be harnessed, not a problem to be solved.
While these rangatahi shy away from structured interventions or institutions, the Street Youth Work team have been able to provide safety, security, and positive engagement opportunities for these young people who otherwise would feel a lot more isolated and disconnected from their communities. They find their sense of belonging on the streets of the city itself.
We are acutely aware that each time we engage with young people on the streets of Hamilton, we are in their space, and over time, the Street Youth Work team have begun to find their own belonging in the space that these young people choose to meet.
This has happened through increased funding for the project from Momentum Waikato, enabling us to grow a closely-knit team, and to use that energy to deepen our relationships with young people on the streets. This has in turn enabled young people to deepen their belonging to and in the space, and with our youth workers as well.
Momentum Waikato has embraced our vision and have invested themselves into a truly transformational project. We are so thankful for their support to make this project a revolutionary success for our rangatahi.
Long-term, our vision is to transition our young whanau from the streets, and into skill development opportunities and meaningful first-time employment out of our Hamilton Zeal centre. We are currently looking for a skilled screen printer, to take on the day to day running of our soon-to-launch social enterprise, Ward Lane Print Co. If you could share this role with your networks, we’d be grateful.
If you’re interested in making a contribution to Zeal Hamilton, we’d love to talk with you about how your generosity can create a transformational change. Please contact us.