As homelessness becomes a growing problem in Scotland, Raymond Ross looks at two initiatives trying to keep young people off the streets
A theatre company is going on the road in an attempt to keep schoolchildren off the streets.
With increasing numbers of young Scots becoming homeless each year, "preparing to leave home education" has become an important issue for schools to tackle. One effective medium they can use is drama - a thought which has led the Scottish Council for Single Homeless to put housing under the spotlight by taking it to the stage.
Offski is a short, punchy play about young people and leaving home, written specifically for secondary pupils. Launched at Edinburgh's Theatre Workshop last month, it is now touring the city's schools.
Written by Jim Tough and performed by the community-based company Moving Parts Theatre Group, the 35-minute production presents the choices and problems facing young people as they leave home, whether to attend college, to get away from domineering parents or simply to set up on their own.
It centres on two female school-leavers, Jan and Kerry, and their respective families, and ably and informatively tackles relevant issues to do with flat-sharing and friendships, housing and financial problems (including payment of college or university tuition fees) and family communication.
Offski is written in an accessible style and is not without humour. But its main strength lies in its clear confrontation of the pitfalls which lie in wait for the naive or unprepared home-leaver.
It sends out clear signals to the unwary without being overly didactic, and it speaks the language of the pupils' common room without becoming patronising.
Sponsored by the Scottish Council for Single Homeless as part of its Housing Education Information Development project, the play provides a solid basis for "preparing to leave home education" in schools. It would make an admirable starting point for discussion and written extension work.
The Offski theatre in education package includes teacher training, education materials and workshops for pupils. Workshop activities range from brainstorming and exploring the issues to characters and decision-making. The script and all supporting materials from the project will be made available for other schools, youth and drama groups to use in the future.
Further information and workshop packs are available from Annie O'Rourke, HEID project manager, Scottish Council for Single Homeless, Wellgate House, 200 Cowgate, Edinburgh EH1 1NQ,tel: 0131 226 4382