Rangatahi step up to make change

If you’re feeling that homelessness in Aotearoa is worse than it’s ever been you’re right — a recent OECD paper indicates that out of its 38 member nations, New Zealand has the seventh highest rate of homelessness. If we were to ask when you last saw a homeless person, you would be unlikely to have much trouble coming up with an answer. But what about the last time you saw a homeless child? 

This would be a lot harder, and it’s not because the issue of youth homelessness isn’t prevalent but because it’s hidden. 

A report from Growing Up in New Zealand actually reveals that around 1 in every 14 young people experience housing deprivation or homelessness between the ages of 8 and 12. And nobody knows this reality better than those who have experienced it firsthand, which is exactly what sparked the idea for The Front Door. 

Spearheaded by the newly formed Kickback Trust, The Front Door is a space created for at-risk youth in Tamaki Makaurau to have a safe haven, support and community. Significantly this is being created in collaboration with a group of rangatahi who have had firsthand experience of homelessness as young children. Located on K Road, the space officially opened its doors this month with a dawn blessing from Ngati Whatua and moving korero from its rangatahi kaitiaki.

The collective aim is to change the narrative around youth homelessness; showing the positive impact of enabling young people who have had to leave home by providing a place to come for care, help accessing healthcare, housing support, mental health services and always a hot milo.

WOMAN Editor-At-Large and Kick Back Trust board member, Christina Sayers Wickstead has been involved with the project from conception alongside founder and youth advocate Aaron Hendry. 

“When I heard about homeless tamariki in our CBD I was shocked,” she said. “As a mother I couldn’t look away from that happening in my own community. No child is too at risk to love. The only reason a young child runs away from home is if the streets feel safer. Think about that.”

Kick Back wants children in our CBD to know there is a safe hub to come to, hang out in, get food, warmth, love guidance and a roof over their head.”

As a woman’s advocate, Christina adds she’s proud to see so many wahine toa on the rangatahi advisory board. “They utterly inspire me,” she says. “Their bravery to share their own stories and their drive to protect others from that experience.” 

Rangatahi leader Aaliyah Davies (18) became involved with the Kick Back project to help make a difference and ensure that others wouldn’t have to experience what she did. 

“The Front Door project is everything I never had. The whole space, it’s something that we don’t have, that no one has.”

She adds that it offers a place where young people can go and experience love as opposed to the shame that society imparts on them — an aspect of homelessness which Aaliyah believes more people need to be aware of. 

“That shame destroys people and their mental health, their self-esteem, their beliefs, their hope.” 

So, what is success to her? The Front Door project creates an environment that gives these kids back the hope they’ve had stolen from them.

Hope is a chance for change, it’s a chance for a better future, a chance to be heard, loved, understood, cared for, something most of our young people don’t have.

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