by Stephen Mahon
A charity that helps teens across Scotland deal with substance abuse has seen a major increase in the need for its services this year.
Demand is up by 30 percent compared to the same period 12 months ago, and Roy Lees, coordinator of the Kids in Crisis charity, expects the problem to increase. Lees said: “I put the problem down to methadone. It is an increasingly popular method to treat heroin addiction, but since it was first introduced in a big way in the ’80s, it just hasn’t worked. We deal with the fallout from that, and during times of high unemployment the situation is worse. The government needs to take a far deeper look at the issue.”
Kids in Crisis is an offshoot of Teen Challenge, a charity that first came to the UK from America in the 1980s. Currently they have 12 local teams nationwide, with nearly 500 workers made up from staff and volunteers who work in multiple locations across the UK.
The aim of the charity is to actively reach people in need, and -in a novel approach- this can take the form of special buses that have been converted to coffee shops going to the worst affected areas.
A Trustee of Teen Challenge Strathclyde, Bill Kerr said: “We have a location that we visit in Paisley, and some nights nobody will come onto the bus and on other occasions up to ten to fifteen people might come on. There isn’t always a pattern that you can predict. Alcohol addiction is of course a problem, but our focus tends to be on younger people with drug addiction.”
Kerr further explained the challenges facing the charity. He said: “We truly do not know the size of the problem, we only touch a few people’s lives. If we can meet people, we’ll meet them, if we can help people we will help them. If they are willing to go to rehab we will send them. If they are not willing to go we do not refuse them a cup of coffee.”
Teams of workers also walk the streets looking for the opportunity to serve and organise food for those who require it.
Although the original work carried out by Teen Challenge was with teenagers, they now often help people in the 18 to 40 age group.
Kerr said: “We are low key in what we try to do. We try to help those who want help. We do not turn people away.”