‘Kids are running around with knives’: Volunteer who tried to set up youth group on estate blocked by TRA

A community volunteer said a Tenants and Residents Association (TRA) has blocked him from setting up a youth group to combat antisocial behaviour on his estate.

Jonathan Brown, 42, of Hazel Way, Bermondsey, proposed the Bermondsey Youth Empowerment Project (BYEP) to the Setchell and Longfield TRA on March 1, after being approached by members of the community concerned with young people being involved in gangs and crime.

Despite having joined the TRA himself four years ago, Mr Brown was denied the funding for the project in a move he describes as “discrimination”.

He said: “They told me they wouldn’t fund the project because it’s not just kids on the estate – that doesn’t make sense.

“As soon as I joined the TRA I felt like there was a hostile attitude towards me. People made comments that had racial connotations and didn’t listen to my concerns.

“They don’t want the community involved, they don’t give us the opportunities.”

Setchell and Longfield TRA community hall (Picture: Jonathan Brown)

Southwark councillor Sarah King, cabinet member for council homes, said the council has started investigating the claims made by Mr Brown.

In his project application to the TRA, Mr Brown said the BYEP aims to empower young people aged between 13 and 16 through confidence building and personal development support.

The programme would include 26 weeks of counselling services and activities including community safety skills, poetry and therapy for about 30 teenagers from estates across Bermondsey. 

Mr Brown said: “We had a few incidents recently with young people getting into fights with knives – one boy nearly got his hand severed.

“Kids are running around with knives. Elderly people are getting mugged.

“I’m trying to rebuild the structure of the family home and take kids out for trips to motivate them so we can increase employment in the area.”

Mr Brown started a petition to back the BYEP which received 70 signatures from parents and children on his estate. 

The BYEP proposal which Mr Brown submitted to the TRA (Picture: Jonathan Brown)

Last week the MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, Neil Coyle, reached out to Southwark council on behalf of Mr Brown to raise concerns regarding their decision.

Mr Brown said he is also worried about how the TRA manages its finances.

He said: “They have been charging me £50 every two hours to use my community hall for meetings.

“But I was recently told by another member that the community hall should be free for the community to use.”

On behalf of the TRA, Cllr King said: “So far we cannot find any evidence of wrongdoing. However, we continue to look into this, keep an open mind and listen to anyone who raises concerns with us. 

“We offer information or support to anyone who approaches the council with suggestions for local community engagement projects and we have reached out to Mr Brown to talk to him about applying for funding through the community route.” 

Pictured top: Jonathan Brown outside the community hall (Picture: Jonathan Brown)

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