Campaigners march against plans for new YMCA hostel in Sunderland
Campaigners have stepped up the fight against plans to create a YMCA hostel in their area.
Over 4,000 people have now signed a petition opposing plans to turn the former Church View Medica Centre in Silksworth into a home for young people leaving the care system.
Objectors have cited potential problems with anti-social behaviour as their main concern.
The plans would include an eight-bed purpose-built scheme to provide a place to live for young people aged between 16 and 21.
The YMCA previously argued that using the site as a hostel it will go towards helping the “huge issue” of young people leaving care at 16 with nowhere safe to stay and in some cases even ending up on the streets.
Councillor Phil Tye, who represents Silksworth ward, was among up to 200 protesters who marched from Silksworth Community Centre to the medical centre in a show of opposition to the proposals.
“About 4,100 people have now signed the petition against the YMCA and when you consider there are only 8,000 people in the electorate in Silksworth then that’s over half,” said Coun Tye.
“We haven’t had any positive dialogue with the YMCA recently and they are obviously looking to press on with their plans.
“People in Silksworth know what the building could be, they understand, but they aren’t prepared to take the risk with the anti-social behaviour it could bring.
“We’ve been out to other YMCA centres and we’ve seen for ourselves that there are issues with disorder.
“It’s not something we want here.”
The campaign group is now set to march on the next full meeting of Sunderland City Council at the Civic Centre on Wednesday, September 19, at 6pm, where it will deliver the petition to councillors.
No application on the plans has yet been heard by a council committee.
Kath Hope, chief executive of YMCA Wearside, has previously hit out at “misinformation, gossip and lies” which she says have been spread on social media about the plans.
Today she said: “YMCA Wearside are committed to ensuring that young people in our community have a safe place to stay when their lives turn upside down.
“It is disappointing to see that some residents do not view this issue in the same way but we recognise their right to peacefully object.
“The harsh reality is that many young people across Sunderland leave the care system without anywhere to stay; are forced out of their homes with no family to rely on; or find themselves victims of domestic abuse.
“YMCA Wearside is determined to be there for these young people who would in many cases be left with nowhere else to turn but the streets.
“By giving them somewhere safe and secure we can help them rebuild their lives and move back into the community.”
The petition against the plans can be viewed on the change.org website.