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The other side of Bundaberg

Some of Bundaberg’s alleyways are often used as shelters for homeless people.
Some of Bundaberg’s alleyways are often used as shelters for homeless people. Scottie Simmonds

THIS is one of the forgotten corners of Bundaberg - littered with used sharps containers, with just wall graffiti and overhead traffic as companions.

Basic comforts such as a toothbrush, a razor and a blanket reveal the presence of a homeless person who will return to lie in the dirt underneath the Tallon Bridge at nightfall.

In a dark CBD alley not far away, home insulation sheeting is unfolded like sleeping bags in a garbage-strewn excuse for a home.

These are the places volunteers from the now-axed street van service Drug Arm would visit at night, offering a hot drink and referrals to homeless youths and those affected by drugs and alcohol.

Former volunteer Max Wenborn said while the Bundaberg YMCA was seeking support from community organisations to start a similar service, his concerns were more closely focused on what would happen to the city's forgotten people in the meantime.

"My concern is the kids right now," he said.

Mr Wenborn said last Thursday he visited some of the popular late-night homeless hotspots, including Baldwin Swamp, an alleyway and public toilet block on Barolin St, and under the Tallon Bridge.

"There were four kids, aged between 13 and 17, in Lions Park who came up to me," he said.

"There were two sitting at Tallon Bridge - that would have been at 1am.

"I counted 14 at Alexandra Park. They're not backpackers, these are kids."

Mr Wenborn said he found it difficult to sit in his car while knowing Bundaberg's streetkids needed support, which he could not give since Drug Arm Bundaberg was axed earlier this month.

"Who's going to be there to talk to them?" he said.

The dedicated volunteer said he believed the simple offering of a warm drink, a friendly smile and a 15-minute chat to the street kids had made a huge difference.

"Maybe it's enough time to save a life," he said.

Mr Wenborn said Drug Arm had been responsible for getting crowds of youths that were hanging at the skatebowl late at night to attend CitiCoast Youth Church.

"These kids from the skatebowl, they'll just go to Hinkler Place," he said.

"There's going to be another war there, I bet your bottom dollar."

Topics:  drug arm homeless youth


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