‘T Street’ clocks up 40 years
May 2018 marks 40 years of operation for the Army’s Tranmere Street youth refuge.
Major David Eldridge AM, who founded the refuge with Major Graeme McClimont, told Others magazine that ‘back then, nobody knew about homeless youth as an issue’.
‘We housed both young men and young women, with a basic set of house rules that called for no violence or threats of violence, sex, alcohol or other drugs on the premises. Initially, kids could smoke inside the house, but occupational health and safety eventually put paid to that, thankfully.
‘Homeless people, stereotypically, were “old drunks in the park”. We saw the emergence of a group of young homeless people who for a variety of reasons – exiting children’s homes, or youth hostels, or families that had broken down – had found themselves adrift. This was in the days before waiting lists. If a kid was homeless we had them housed that same day. It took an eviction to prompt some action, but to be fair the Army didn’t really know what it was doing, and neither did we. We needed time; we learnt on the run.
‘The kids were teaching us about homelessness. We didn’t have a time-limited length of stay at Tranmere St. Even after the program was funded by government and they brought in a three-month time limit for accommodation, we didn’t necessarily abide by it. We thought kids could be there as long as they needed, either in the house at Tranmere St or in the flats we subsequently received.
‘It took 16 years sometimes to make a homeless young person; it wasn’t something that was going to be fixed in 16 weeks.’
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