Social work groups have pin-pointed what they say are serious problems with drugs and homelessness in Glen Innes.
“Drugs are a big issue here”, said Denise Butler who is about to start a service in the town to try to wean people off narcotics and excessive alcohol use. “It’s a youth issue – white and aboriginal – equal.”
And Tim Chard who works with homeless people said: “It’s a major problem. There are some weeks when we are just over-run.”
They were speaking at a gathering in the Town Hall of groups dealing with social problems. At the event, people could bring in blankets for the homeless.
Denise Butler, the town’s Drug and Alcohol Coordinator with the Armajun Aboriginal Health Service, said the drug problem was often inter-generational with drug abusing parents dependent on welfare passing a destructive way of life on to their children. It happened, she said, across the community.
She said a new program was about to be started in Glen Innes to address the drug problem. It’s modeled on a scheme which has shown some success in Iceland. Under it, there are workshops for families, often with music or dance or art.
“I want to bring back culture”, she said, “and what I’m hoping to do is then, when people are in the workshops, to start addressing the drugs issue.”
On homelessness, Tim Chard of Pathfinders in Glen Innes, said the town was not worse than other comparable towns but the situation was still bad, with three or four people in difficulty coming forward each week. There were two categories – those about to be made homeless or those who already were, often youths sleeping on someone else’s sofa.
Drug worker, Denise Butler, felt the root of the drug problem was boredom.
Both she and Tim Chard who works with the homeless felt that the real underlying cause of both problems was a lack of employment.