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Social workers stay up all night to keep local youth out of trouble
Wong Yat-hei
update on Friday, May 27, 2011
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It is nearly 6am and Toe Chan Chun-to has just grabbed a bite to eat. He is on his way home after spending the whole night wandering the streets.

Don't mistake him for an outlaw who carries out dirty business after midnight. He is a social worker from Youth Outreach who seeks out young people at night and tries to keep them out of trouble.

Chan drives around the city with a team of two or three colleagues to look for youth in crisis.

"We visit parks, housing estates, convenience stores and 24-hour fast-food outlets. We approach youth and let them know we are here to help them and can offer a place for them. We have a place in our headquarters known as "The Hang Out", with karaoke, snooker and ball games. If they want to hang out at night, it is better for them to hang out with us," Chan says.

Social workers have no trouble approaching kids who wander at night. "We usually break the ice by chatting with them about things that they are interested in. Through casual conversations we get to know them more and determine whether they need help," Chan says.

If someone is in trouble, requires immediate assistance, has no place to stay or cannot go home because of domestic violence, Chan will take him to the headquarters in Sai Wan Ho, where there is a hostel.

"My job is to provide instant help. Social workers in other departments will do a detailed evaluation [of a person who needs help] and refer him to appropriate services," Chan says.

Having to work throughout the night is tough, but Chan loves it because he finds it challenging. "I have worked as a school social worker before. It was a routine job. But as an outreach social worker, every time we go out, we get to meet new people and listen to new stories," he says.

A degree in social work or related disciplines is typically required for this kind of job. Social workers on the night shift tend to be young, which is ideal, as they can easily mix with their target clients.

"I believe there are young people in need of help all year round, so we have colleagues who go out 365 days a year. We are on shift duty and work five

and a half days a week," Chan says.

The starting salary for night outreach social workers is about HK$13,000 a month.

Those with more than eight or nine years of experience are eligible to move up to the position of supervisor.

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