Vic bus offers hope


Vic at-risk youth volunteers have been donated a new crisis bus to assist those in need

Public transport organisations and businesses joined forces to raise $150,000 for a homeless youth-outreach bus in Melbourne.

The Chatterbox Youth Outreach Program is an after-hours service operating five nights’ a week from 7pm to 1am.

The Chatterbox bus is a mobile youth drop-in centre that visits known hot spots for youth at risk.

Chatterbox volunteers also do a foot patrol to locate and engage with young people on the streets.

The service is operated by Whitelion and the non-for profit organisation’s volunteers provide food, clothing and blankets to disadvantaged and homeless youth in Melbourne.

Whitelion ambassador and transport industry identity Ivan Backman [AM] says he is overwhelmed by the unity and generosity shown by those who donated to get the new Chatterbox Youth Outreach Program bus up-and-running.

"Once people understood the incredible job this organisation and these volunteers do for the kids in need – they were happy to support it," he says.

"It probably took about five or six months to raise the money."

Once word got out that Whitelion needed a new bus to replace the one they had, the transport community rallied to support the cause.

The bus the organisation was using had broken down on several occasions and was on its last legs, so a more reliable bus, equipped with a purpose-built interior was needed.

Crown Coaches donated the bus itself, Roadtrek did the refurbishment, and a multitude of companies and organisations came to the party helping to equip the bus with refrigerators, a kitchen and other necessary amenities.

A launch and grand unveiling of the finished product will be on Thursday, June 18 at the Fox Classic Car Museum in Docklands.

Attendees will hear from an inspirational ambassador for the Chatterbox Youth Outreach Program, whose volunteers helped him rise above the streets and build a better life for himself.

The Chatterbox Program is currently staffed by two outreach workers and 50 volunteers - over the past three months, the service has provided support to more than 1900 young people.

There is a strong focus on encouraging youth do whatever they can to change their circumstances by helping them find work and educational opportunities.

More than 6,000 people aged 12 to 24 are homeless on any given night in Victoria, according to 2011 ABS Census estimates.

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