This morning had the great pleasure of thanking the volunteers and staff organisers responsible for the Safe Space program.
The pilot program began on December 5 last year and was due to finish on February 21, but we have decided to extend it until May 30 to allow the service to keep running while an evaluation is made and recommendations for the future of the service are put to Council.
The Safe Space is open on Friday and Saturday nights at Sydney Square next to Sydney Town Hall, to help vulnerable young people who may be intoxicated or affected by drugs. The space runs from 10pm to 4am and is staffed with a team of specially trained Salvation Army volunteers, known as the Take Kare Ambassadors.
A number of bodies have come together to make the program possible. The Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation has been a consistent advocate for a safe space in the city. The NSW Department of Justice asked the City to implement a pilot program as part of the CBD Entertainment Precinct Plan of Management; the City and the Department joined forces to fund the Salvation Army to run the pilot, and the Salvos provided team leaders and recruited volunteers.
A bus and gazebo in Sydney Square gives a safe space for people to receive basic first aid, charge their telephones, rehydrate with some water and generally be safe from harm.
There are also Take Kare Ambassadors working with team leaders along George Street, from Haymarket to Martin Place. Over 130 have now been trained to work as volunteers and multi-task brilliantly. They give support to young people made vulnerable by alcohol, give directions, provide information on late night transport, escort people to transport, provide basic first aid, help people find their friends or telephone their families and refer them to the Safe Space to rest and sober up.
The results have certainly been impressive. In its first three months, the program has given support to over 1,800 people - plus an estimated 300-plus people who were helped on New Year's Eve. That's over 1,800 people who could potentially have come to harm, who could have become another tragic story for the next day's news broadcasts.
The work of these great volunteers is a tribute to the spirit of Sydney and the generosity of its people.