'We help young people to find their aspirations' says boss of new youth centre
PUBLISHED: 13:03 22 January 2019
OnSide Youth Zones
The boss of a new £6 million youth centre has spoken out about his hopes for the venue just months ahead of its opening.
The OnSide Youth Zone, named Future by children living in the borough, is being built at the corner of Gale Street and Porters Avenue, Dagenham.
It will offer sport, arts and hot meals to young people aged eight to 19 - or 25 for those with a disabilty - 365 days a year.
It is the first project in London for OnSide Youth Zones, a charity providing spaces for young people.
With CEO Gavin Evans expecting 3,000 members to join the centre in its first year, he’s taking on 50 staff and others as volunteers to run the sessions.
“The young people of Barking and Dagenham really deserve somewhere like a youth zone,” he said.
“For me, it’s a place where young people can go where it shows the community believes in them. It shows that adults are behind them.”
Barking and Dagenham has the largest population of children under the age of 15 of any London borough at 27.2 per cent, according to 2015 Office of National Statistics data.
The ministry of housing, communities and local government also says the borough added 1,799 homes in 2016-17.
Mr Evans is keen to provide a space for people in these new communities to go, especially in the context of government cuts to youth services.
“Where the youth zone fits in is we help young people to find their aspirations and their dreams and then give them the tools they need to unlock them,” he said.
A police officer ran a youth club Mr Evans went to when he was a teenager. He still talks about how the space opened doors for him.
He said: “My passion for wanting to do this job comes from me attending a youth centre when I was younger and knowing the opportunities and the difference it made to me.
“I want to do the same for Barking and Dagenham’s young people.”
The work of the centre stems from one factor, according to Mr Evans.
“Our main priority is to build good, positive relationships with young people in our first year.
“If we build good, positive relationships with young people, we know that the other things will follow.”
The Dagenham Youth Zone is due to open in May, with two others in Barnet and Croydon following in the summer.