Twenty years ago when Goulburn resident Carol James heard about the deaths of several people due to drug overdoses, she decided to do something to help the community.
"Someone then suggested that it's important to go out on the streets to understand what the problem is," the Goulburn Mulwaree councillor said.
"We were told about this team in Sydney which ran the street van programs. We liked the idea and implemented it in Goulburn, Cr James told The Post.
The 'Goulburn Street Van' has been operational ever since and this year marks its 20th year.
"Earlier, kids aged 10-12 years were seen hanging out at the park but you don't see that happening anymore. The street has changed a lot," she said.
A team of volunteers drive the van around the city from 10pm to 2am on Friday and Saturday.
They look after people on the streets who need help and provide them with food, drinks and blankets.
"We take people home if they are in need. Over the years, we have done some first aids and taken people to the hospitals. Several times, we have dropped off youths who have been stranded on the streets at night," Cr James said.
"If it helps to make streets safer by taking someone home, we will do that. We want the youths to realise that we are there to make sure they are safe."
"We want to assure young people that we are there for them if they need assistance.
"If required, we call the police and ambulance as well. We also maintain a record book of everything."
Over those 20 years the Street Van has received a great deal of support from the community.
"We rely on the community donation for things like fuel costs, maintenance of the van and training of the volunteers," Cr James said.
"If people want to be a part of the program, they can volunteer, pay for fuel or can donate fuel vouchers as well.
"We make streets a bit safer for the community at night. It's been good and we have received a great response. People have been very appreciative of what we do."
The Goulburn Street Van currently has about 20 volunteers.
The volunteers are trained in first aid, police liaison, coping with drug affected people, how to be safe and ensure safety of those on the street, mental health and suicide training so they have some "skills and are confident".
"Our volunteers should be understanding and non-judgmental as they can come across different situations," she said.
To contact the Goulburn Street Van, call Carol James on 0409 48 3766 or Kel Johnson on 4821 7467.
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