A one-stop-shop to help young people thrive. A hub with multipurpose facilities offering healthcare, financial, employment and counselling services. A place to learn how to grow vegetables, find work or explore further education. And, most importantly, beds for couch-surfing youth needing a temporary home.
Such is the ambition of Christchurch health professional and youth advocate Dr Sue Bagshaw, a dream which is about to become concrete; Bagshaw is currently working to establish the Youth Hub, Te Hurihanga O Rangatahi, which will provide wraparound health and social services.
“Most young people in New Zealand are doing well, probably about 80%, but 20% aren’t and that’s quite a lot of young people,” Bagshaw says.
“Especially the ones who’ve left school, they don’t have the support that they need to grow through into adulthood in a thriving way. There are lots of services out there but they often don’t get to them, they get referred places but they never go because they haven’t got any transport or it’s too costly or they don’t know where the place is.”
Bagshaw has been running Christchurch’s 298 (formerly 198) Youth Health Centre with 11 other organisations since 1995. The Youth Hub will be an extension of this concept and will be situated on central city land purchased and leased by Anglican Care specifically for the cause.
The fundraising campaign for the Youth Hub will begin with a variety concert showcasing a celebrated line-up of local and New Zealand talent.
Co-design of the buildings has been completed in conjuction with young people and the organisations which will be situated within the Hub.
“We’ve created the design now and that will be revealed at the concert. The costings will be done by then too, so we’ll know exactly how much we’re aiming for.”
Youth services struggle for funding because our healthcare system focuses on curing illness, rather than holistic view of wellbeing, Bagshaw says.
“In people’s heads, young people don’t get sick. In fact, physically they often don’t, but we know that mental illness is on the rise. GPs aren’t equipped to treat mental illness, they just don’t have the time that’s necessary,” she says.
“In terms of young people developing, it’s not just health they need; it’s a broader sense of health – job, housing, learning how to get financial skills, shopping, cleaning, all that kind of stuff. In a lot of homes they’re taught that as they’re growing up, but in a lot of homes they’re not.”
Young people, especially from 16-22, often face difficulty in finding stable housing due to a lack of funds and reluctance to let from landlords, Bagshaw says. A key component of the Youth Hub will be transition housing, where youth who are seeking work will be able to reside temporarily, with easy access to employment services.
“This project is incredibly ambitious and quite mad, but absolutely essential as far as I can see,” Bagshaw says.
“So many of them are struggling because they might get a job but they have to move in two weeks so they can’t keep the job because they can’t get transport to get to the job from their new housing, or they’re couch surfing, which means two weeks on somebody’s couch until they chuck you out because they can’t afford to keep you any longer.
“If they’re not at university or polytech, then they’ve got low wage jobs with really uncertain hours so again can’t afford to pay regular lease.”
The Youth Hub housing includes plans for 25 individual rooms with ensuites and shared kitchen, lounge and laundry areas. Bagshaw is currently also working on creating connections with other local housing projects.
“What we’re working on really hard is actually where can they go to next?” she says.
“Otherwise we’re going to be full all the time and there won’t be opportunities for new people coming in.”
Although Bagshaw believes finding housing in Christchurch now is probably similar to elsewhere in the country. Housing and health services in the Canterbury region were heavily impacted immediately after the earthquakes.
“Moving is incredibly stressful in itself, so therefore mental health suffers. I think mental health is deteriorating everywhere in terms of anxiety and depression, but I do think we have that extra burden, especially the ones who were in-utero or born in the first two years of the earthquakes,” she says.
“Brain development is really rapid at puberty and also obviously at birth … you’re developing your sense of situation, so if you’re developing your sense that tables stay where they are, lights stay in the ceiling and don’t fall down, and you experience the exact opposite many times over – because we had so many aftershocks – I think you then learn to be anxious all the time because that is built into you, that’s what your brain’s been prepared for.
“I think they are suffering most and they’re coming through into teenage-hood now, so I think we’re getting ready for the tsunami at the moment.”
The Youth Hub fundraising concert will be held at the St Margaret’s College Charles Luney Auditorium on December 5, at 7.30pm. Tickets can be found here.
For more information, visit the Youth Hub Facebook Page.