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A familiar face for youth on the streets

In Homelessness Prevention Week we focus on stepping up to end homelessness in Australia. Today we're introducing you to a long serving Red Cross homelessness worker, supporting young homeless people off the streets.

Monday August 3, 2015

Bob Cunningham - a friendly face welcomes young homeless people in Brisbane (Photo: ARC/Chloe Brant)

Red Cross staffer Bob Cunningham is a welcoming face for young homeless folk in Brisbane, having worked at the front line of youth homelessness for as long as some of them have been alive.

Bob has been working for Red Cross' Night Café in Brisbane for 13 years; first as a volunteer, and now as a Red Cross youth worker supporting young homeless people in Brisbane.

The Night Café caters for an average of 40 young people two nights a week, providing them with free hot meals, hot showers, toiletries and blankets. 

Bob says he loves building relationships with the young people who come in each week.

"We build trust with the young people and really get to know them," Bob says.

Housing affordability for young people, along with family break-downs are the main reasons for the recent increase of people aged between 12 and 25 attending the Night Cafe.

Bob knows by providing a welcoming and safe place for young people to come relax, replenish, and seek support, they gain confidence to begin to take control of their journeys and find their own solutions. 

Bob says after he has built a connection with a young person, they progressively open up to him and the other workers and volunteers at the centre.

"We go beyond the hand-out mentality. We all empower the young people to make their own choices and start to control their own journeys," Bob says. "We have a place where young people can find their dignity because they have someone looking out for them."

Meanwhile Red Cross' Young Centre in inner-city Fortitude Valley also provides links to support young people at risk.

Red Cross staff at the Young Centre work to provide accommodation and intensive support for young people experiencing homelessness by creating pathways to accommodation, healthcare, training and employment.  

They also support young people in areas including mental health and substance use.

The Night Café and The Young Centre are easily accessible and open for young people to drop in and meet Red Cross people like Bob, who are dedicated to making life less tough for young people on the streets.

The Night Café operates every Tuesday and Thursday nights below Brisbane City Hall, 64 Adelaide Street, Brisbane.

The Young Centre operates every weekday between 9 am - 5 pm at 93 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley.