Youth services missing in action

So often the needs of young people are ignored because they have no-one to speak for them.

Good on Rebecca Salafia (Echo, May 1) for having a go at speaking out, but will she be heard? Will anyone take any notice? Rural And Town Youth Service (RATYS) and the Lismore Youth Refuge were closed seven years ago even though young people in the area were very happy with the service. RATYS had a 24-hour refuge for young, homeless people in crisis who had to leave home, usually because of serious abuse. They could stay for up to three months. Now all they get is two weeks stay in a caravan on their own. When you are young, depressed and homeless, being all alone in a caravan with no friends or support isnt much help. Youre at risk of suicide, or assault if you do invite a stranger in just so you wont be alone.

Given that youth homelessness has increased hugely in the last few years it might be timely to ask what did happen to the Lismore Youth Refuge? RATYS used to manage the Lismore Youth Refuge and The Garrett Youth Centre as well as LILYS Youth Housing, an information and advocacy service, case management and support for clients, family mediation and a youth activities service. The youth refuge was closed down in January 2000 along with RATYS with no explanation to the community at all.

The staff, at the time, were told they would be sacked if they went to the media and informed the community about the closure. The funding for the 24-hour youth refuge and the RATYS services would be worth more than a million dollars per year. What has happened to that money? Its been seven years of virtually no services, which makes $7m of taxpayers money spent on what?

Beth Shelley

Lismore


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