Greater Shepparton’s young people have been taking full advantage of The Haven since it relocated to its new spot near the Shepparton RSL.
The Haven provides a safe space for youth to come and meet with friends, reach out to mentors and even learn how to cook.
It started in mid-January this year as an initiative of Greater Shepparton Lighthouse Project, which asked young people last year what they wanted to see in Shepparton and what facilities would help them.
The space was previously set up behind Shepparton’s Primary Care Connect, but with so many young people keen to use the facility it needed to expand and was relocated in August this year.
Shepparton’s Konrad Fepuleai manages The Haven and believes it plays an important role in supporting youth.
‘‘The kids who have been coming really enjoy it, they love this space, they love the activities that we run and most of all they love the environment and the homeliness we’re able to provide,’’ he said.
The Haven often partners with different groups such as RiverConnect and Greater Shepparton City Council to get its young people involved in different activities.
There are also plenty of things for young people to do while at the facility, such as play pool, table tennis and basketball.
Young people can also learn to cook through The Haven’s cooking program, and if they would like to work on their homework, there is plenty of space to do that too.
The Haven is open four days a week and often has about 30 to 50 young people come through its doors on each of these days.
The young people are aged between 12 and 24, but sometimes they bring along younger siblings who are also welcome.
Mr Fepuleai said The Haven started off small with only about four young people attending to begin with, but gradually word got out and more people started coming.
‘‘We wanted to start off slow and small so we knew what the young people wanted and we were able to give them what they wanted,’’ he said.
‘‘Essentially this is their space and we’re here to accommodate them and to make sure they feel they have somewhere safe to go.’’
Mr Fepuleai said unfortunately there were a lot of young people in Shepparton who were disengaged and needed some extra support.
‘‘Shepparton’s doing a good job in providing alternative settings for schooling, but they’re still not hitting the mark on what it is these kids really need and really want,’’ he said.
‘‘We feel as though by creating a space like this we’ll be able to provide that gap that we have here in the Goulburn Valley to help these young people when they’re outside the school setting.
‘‘Even if they’re not going to school they can come here, they can feel comfortable, they can feel loved, they can feel supported and it’s only then that young people want to start pursuing careers or goals.’’
Mr Fepuleai has worked with The Haven since January and before that worked with Notre Dame College’s McAuley Champagnat Program.
‘‘I’ve loved working with youth,’’ he said.
‘‘I’ve really found it a passion of mine to help these young people try and make little but subtle changes in their lives that sometimes they don’t realise they’re making.
‘‘It’s those changes that really make the big difference in their life.’’
As for The Haven’s future, Mr Fepuleai still believes there is room to grow and expand.
‘‘A lot of the kids are wanting a gym, they’re wanting a little bit more space to run around, they want to kick their footy and unfortunately in the space that we have we don’t have that, so from here we’ve just got to continue to create what we can for these young people,’’ he said.
Mr Fepuleai said essentially they wanted to create partnerships across the Goulburn Valley to help support young people with education and work, but for now they were happy to provide a space for youths where they could be themselves and feel safe.
For more information about The Haven, see its Facebook page.
Sanctuary for youths
Shepparton’s The Haven was officially launched last week with more than 50 people attending.
During the event guests were given a tour of the facility by young people who regularly access it and love the services provided.
The Haven, at 92 Wyndham St, offers youth from a diverse background a place to come for a meal, company or guidance.
Youth can take part in programs such as bowling or swimming and there are 150 youths registered with The Haven.
Alongside the trained youth workers are 34 volunteers who come from a range of businesses across Shepparton.
Funding for The Haven comes from the Department of Education and Training, which allowed the service to lease the location.
Before moving to Wyndham St, The Haven was behind Shepparton’s Primary Care Connect.