'It's somewhere safe to go': A closer look at Grimsby's newest youth centre

"Somewhere safe to go" is the main offer of Grimsby's newest youth centre.

The Haven Centre, in Osborne Street, is less than six months old and offers a place where young people can engage in activities and get support on a range of topics including education, sexual health, mental health, drugs and substance misuse.

It is also part of a collaboration between North East Lincolnshire Council and McDonald's, a pilot project for wider youth work ambitions of the fast-food chain. Grimsby Live visited the centre last week and spoke about about it with Paul Caswell, the council's head of young and safe.

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The centre is a warm, welcoming space, with a general reception area visible from Osborne Street. Further inside is a counselling room, a sexual health consultation room, play facilities including foosball, and offices for youth workers. It opened on November 30 to young people, with an official launch on December 7 by Cllr Ron Shepherd. Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner Jonathan Evison and then-councillor Daniel Westcott also attended.

"Somewhere safe to go," Paul Caswell pithily described as what it provides young people. "It offers young people an opportunity to engage in positive activities supported by professionals. These professionals cover the plethora of youth work."

It is open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, from 6.30pm to 9.30pm, and between 2pm and 6pm on Saturdays, but also can hold drop-in sessions during the day. Positive activity sessions delivered by the likes of Fusion and Trin, home work drop-in sessions for education, and We Are With You, a drug and alcohol support organisation, have already used the facility.

Haven Centre is funded by the Office of the Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner, UK Shared Prosperity Funding, Activation Funding from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and youth crime grant funding through the Youth Justice Board. Each match fund it, and it is one of five elements of a wider 'Safer Streets' programme in Grimsby town centre. This is also known by Humberside Police as 'Op Mastery'.

North East Lincolnshire Council's Paul Caswell outside Haven Centre in Osborne Street, Grimsby
Paul Caswell outside Haven Centre in Osborne Street, Grimsby -Credit:Donna Clifford/GrimsbyLive

In a short space of time, hundreds of young people have used the centre, and any youth organisation can organise drop-ins there. Mr Caswell said between January 1 and March 31, there were 181 individual young people, who used it 474 times. The latest average per session is 20-25 young people.

McDonald's have played their part, sharing resources and engaging with young people who visit the nearby Victoria Street West branch. A working group on town centre anti-social behaviour at a council-held anti-social behaviour summit on March 3, 2022, started it all. "He was a big advocate of how do we get this going," said Mr Caswell of Ayolt Kloosterboer, franchisee for McDonald's three Grimsby restaurants.

"It got to the point where young people were clearing up the tables and putting them inside," he said of the engagement with young people at the nearby restaurant. They hoped to also have some McDonald's staff as volunteers at Haven Centre.

Part of the play area in Haven Centre in Osborne Street, Grimsby - quotes range from David Burns to the Dalai Lama
Part of the play area in Haven Centre in Osborne Street, Grimsby - quotes range from David Burns to the Dalai Lama -Credit:Donna Clifford/GrimsbyLive

"What will be really good is seeing the staff here delivering the youth work. Then they still see them in the restaurant as youth workers as well as employees." Children in Need and McDonald's have viewed the Grimsby link-up as an example of best practice and how local authorities, McDonald's and other partners can work together to tackle town centre anti-social behaviour.

Among the schemes operated using the Haven Centre is a graffiti project during half-term holidays. Supported by High Street Accelerator Funding from DLUHC, and The 2025 Group in Grimsby, it is engaging eight young people "the opportunity to be creative in a very much controlled environment" and the end result will be a public display, with workshops run by Unseen Arts.

Mr Caswell stressed the partnership working of the council with youth organisations in the borough. This included a youth engagement alliance, with organisations like Shalom and Trin. The council has six full-time equivalent staff focused on youth elements.

"This is part of a network, we don't sit in isolation, which is really important," he said of Haven Centre. It also worked well with Grimsby West policing team, and they do try to get PCSOs into the youth centre.

The sexual health consultation room in the Haven Centre in Osborne Street, Grimsby
The sexual health consultation room in the Haven Centre in Osborne Street, Grimsby -Credit:Donna Clifford/GrimsbyLive

The Haven Centre's shelf life may be brief, as it is designed to fill a town centre void while the Horizon Youth Zone is built at West Haven Maltings. "We've got a good service-level agreement with the youth zone. This has only ever been a temporary gap in relation to the youth zone," Mr Caswell said, adding: "I've already met Lucy [Ottewell-Key], the new CEO of the youth zone, and there's a real willingness to work together."

What will happen to Haven Centre once Horizon is up and running remains to be confirmed. In the meantime, it is ensuring there is a centre to provide support and activities to young people in the heart of Grimsby. And the message for young people who would like to participate in the centre's sessions? "Just turn up."