Young people are aware of the risk factors of hanging around town, sharing with us that "more kids are now getting involved with drama" while they are having to wait in the city centre for their transport home or extra curricula activities.
After lockdown earlier this year, I gathered feedback from young people across Whangārei to find out what was difficult during this time, what went well and how can we do it better next time.
Lack of connection was a major theme captured in this survey from whanau, friends and social/sports groups. This led us to understanding the need to still be physically connecting with young people.
Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 restrictions, Whangārei Youth Space has closed the drop-in centre from 3pm-6pm during level 2 or higher because young people who gather at the space attend different schools across Whangārei.
Being aware of the need to have youth workers in the community, working alongside these young people, WYS has now undertaken other engagement avenues to connect with young people.
"There's nothing to do." A common saying between young people generally.
"I might get stepped out sitting around town."
"Gotta roam in an unsafe environment."
Citysafe shared with us "young people are now gathering at the [Cameron Street Mall] stage instead of hanging around because they know WYS will be there".
This is great to know that the WYS presence is supporting efforts to make town a safer place for all to enjoy, but this is only temporary and there will be a day the doors open again.
We are doing the best we can to ensure more young people know there is a safe place to chill out after school.
"Everyone's roaming around because there's nothing else to do."
"I usually wait at WYS until kapa haka practice, but now I have to sit in town until it's closer to the time."
It is not the physical place where young people hang out that causes problems because it's silly to say when young people hang around town they're just going to get into drama and fights.
It is more appropriate to be aware of the factor that if young people have nothing to do, they will look for more interesting things to stimulate themselves.
Unfortunately, young people like us all are living in a really tricky and uncertain period of their lives due to Covid-19, so most of them are not aware of how major this pandemic has had on their mental wellbeing and source to other outlets to release.
As a community we should strive to provide a safe place for these young people among the Covid-19 outbreaks. WYS would like to see more collaboration between organisations and the community to see this happen.
• Anahera Pickering is community outreach co-ordinator at Whangārei Youth Space. She can be contacted at Anahera@youthspace.co.nz