A YMCA OFFICER has slammed claims that some of the residents of their hostel on Sylvan Hill are the cause of the recent spate of muggings in the area.
In a robust defence Lee Buss, director of housing and support for South London YMCA, says:
- the three individuals behind the recent crime wave have NO connection with YMCA Sylvan Hill
- two of their own residents have been victims of the muggers in the last couple of months – and both ended up being assaulted and hospitalised
- they would like to hear from people in the community to work as adult role models for the people at Sylvan Hill
Responding to claims on a social networking site, Mr Buss said they were concerned at the belief they worked exclusively with ‘young black boys’ and “the assumption our young people were going to be the cause of this.
“As far as I know and from the information I’ve been given I’m led to believe the police have identified those who are responsible for the mini crime wave and they have no connection with South London YMCA.”
Mr Buss also poured scorn on the “assumption that problems are being imported into the community.”
He said: “They haven’t come in – they have always been there . “The hostel has 80 ‘customers’ aged 16 to 24, all from the London borough of Croydon.
“It’s also important to point out we work with both young men and young women and we don’t specifically target for the BME (black and minority ethnic). “We don’t specifically work with, as was put, ‘young black boys’.
“The other thing that concerned us was just the assumption our young people were going to be the cause of this.”
He also responded to claims made at the recent Crystal Palace and Norwood Chamber of Commerce ‘Crimewatch’ meeting that two visitors to Sylvan Hill had carried out a robbery during a gig at the nearby St John’s church on Auckland Road.
“The question I have, other than the fact that two young people may or may not have visited someone at Sylvan Hill is: on what grounds this allegation is made?
“Young people come to us from the community that everyone else who lives round here comes from as well but they come to us with a specific set of needs that we try to help them with.
“If we weren’t here these young people would still develop their needs but there would be no-one to address them. “We like to believe we’re part of the solution. “We are providing a service to the community. “Our vision is to make a lasting difference to lives and communities.
“Our referrals come from the local authority. “Any young person that presents as homeless in Croydon and is deemed as being Croydon’s responsibility – i.e. it means they have a local connection, they’ve generally grown up here.. “They then refer these young people to support accommodation like ours. “Who we work with depends on who in the community needs us.
“We’re being painted very much as the cause of society’s issues. “Whereas the way we’d view it the issue in relation to gangs and crime is an issue all the community face. “We see our role very much in trying to address that and reduce it.
“We work very much in co-operation and partnership with the police. “Community safety is very important and we certainly try to support the work of the local safer neighbourhood team.
“The issue we’re facing as a community isn’t restricted to anyone of a particular demographic. “It’s an issue that affects the entire community. “We don’t create the problem – we respond to the problem and try to reduce it.
“For us, what we’re doing here is trying to take young people and give them an opportunity to progress positively with their lives, to engage in education or employment or training, to make good positive choices.
“We’re trying to create responsible young people, create the skills young people need to live independently and to be a responsible member of the community.
“I see what we are doing of being of benefit to the community – an ideal scenario for us to work with the community. “Our young people come to us having lacked any positive adult role models in their life.
“We’re really keen to get people from the local community volunteering with us; to work with these young people and to have contact and understanding of the work we do top provide some of these positive adult role models.
“If people have questions , if people want to see what we do, please contact us.”
BACKGROUND: The YMCA took the Sylvan Hill building over from the Knights Millennium project about five or six years ago at the request of the Charity Commission. The reason the building retains the name Knights-Millennium Foyer is because it was part-funded by the Millennium Lottery funding and one of the conditions of the grant is the retention of its name.
The support they deliver is funded by central government but administered by the local authority. The building is maintained by rental income from the residents.