The Street has been open in Scarborough for a year, and in that time its impact has been as subtle as the huge building which houses it.
Vulnerable youngsters in the town have seen their lives transformed by the state of the art facility, and chief executive Mel Bonney-Kane said the best is yet to come.
“The building still takes my breath away,” she said. “It’s such a privilege to be able to provide this for Scarborough.”
The £6 million state-of-the art centre opened in February last year and was greeted with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.
Some were delighted that a world-class youth facility was opening, while others questioned the wisdom of investing so much in a single building during times of economic hardship.
Yet Mel would argue that this is the most vital time to create such supportive services. In a world of few job opportunities it gives youngsters hope of a brighter future.
“It’s about aspiration and showing young people and the wider community that we believe in them,” she said.
Constructed on a portion of a largely-vacant car park which only sees heavy usage once a year when the travelling fair comes in to town, the centre offers vocational and social opportunities for a disenchanted youth who were both feared and scorned by their elders.
Previously there had been very little for cash-poor youngsters to do in their free time. Youth centres around the town were rapidly closing, while the cost of entertainment rose.
Inevitably, boredom has often led to misbehaviour by the town’s younger residents.
But in constructing The Street, local youth charity Seachange has attempted to reverse this trend.
Mel said: “It was about providing apropriate youth and community facilities of which there were not in the town.
“There has been nothing like it before in Scarborough.”
Up to 80 teenagers and young adults now use the facility each evening and at peak times that number can be doubled.
The venue features a sports hall, climbing wall, informal social space and even music studios.
Health counselling and youth support in the same building as these activities means there is more anonymity and easier access for those hoping to access services. You could be playing football or seeking family planning advice, but no one would know.
There are also vocational opportunities and young adults can increase employability by volunteering in the building.
“These are young people that are at that level of intervention by the state because they are unable to find work.” explained Mel. “They have come here and they have found something they are able to grasp on to and we think that’s great.
“Getting that first step when you are young and unable to find work is just crucial.”
Robert Dingley is known as ‘young Rob’ around the building. The 21-year-old was unable to find employment on his own but was offered a work placement at The Street and “absolutely shone”.
If he hadn’t secured a role at The Street, Rob said he would most likely still be looking for employment.
“They are always keen to take people on and every single person has been really nice to me since I came,” he said.
For Rob this is a huge change from his childhood – he was regularly bullied and also had problems at home.
“When I was younger I always thought everyone was against me,” he said. “But then I came here and I got on with everyone straight away.”
Rob now helps out around the building and he has advice for anyone else who thinks they have nowhere to turn: “Come in and approach somebody. They are laid back and let you do things at your own pace and as long as you are willing to put the effort in, they won’t turn you away.”
While youngsters are the primary function of The Street, these facilities are maintained and supported by external bodies who rent office space. The first-year goal had been to achieve 80 per cent occupancy, yet this currently stands at 93 per cent and with three months of the financial year to go, the building has already achieved a surplus.
Going forward, additional cash from the Police and Crime Commissioner’s funding pot will allow the development of the garden area into a social space, complete with BBQ and climbing wall.
Outside there are also allotments where fruit and vegetables can be grown.
The ability to spend quality time outside or to have a place to call their own is often an alien concept for Scarborough’s urbane youth.
Mel said: “Generally the kids that are round here are a bit boisterous, but they treat the building with respect and I think we are showing we value them by giving them a building like this, where that they can make that transition to adulthood.
“On the whole they are kids who are exploring their personalities and this is a great place for them to do that. It is Scarborough’s building.”