As some of you will know I'm interested in the consequences of the best intentions and how that is not necessarily thought about in the first instance.
I heard about what I believed was a really great community initiative lately but which may now be presenting problems or difficulties for those who thought it up. I'd be interested to hear peoples views on this one example but more generally about similar experiences or dilemmas.
Anyway, the initiative is a religious one, a lot of the people involved from its commencement are middle class or affluent working class, people who've made their way out of the worst housing estates or projects which a lot of the kids targetted by the initiative hail from.
What they've been doing is running a youth club or drop in centre and outreach work in which youth workers and volunteers go out from the centre and to the places people are generally frightened to go because there's groups of youths drinking alcohol, gathering and behaving aggressively towards passers by that sort of thing.
They'll approach them and say things like "Can I buy that bottle of cider off you?" or "What will you take for that bottle of beer? You want a burger, some phone credit, whatever" and from there make some headway with some of the young people asking them why they're hanging out in the cold or rain, asking them would they like to hang out at the youth club instead.
A lot of the kids are behaving that way because their parents dont give a damn, their parents may be doing the same sort of thing back home with their adult peers, some of the adult peers are aggressive, violent sorts, especially with alcohol on them and the kids then have to get out of doors. Others are bored.
A lot of the alcohol or drug abusive behaviour is a mutation of earlier more mild experimental behaviour held in stasis in as a "rite of passage" thing, how to be grown up, accomplished, build up prestige or social capital with your peers. So when stealling a beer previously was a big deal its bottles of vodka now.
Anyway, this initiative has been a real success, I think the local authority is going to support them with some money even because there's been a drop in crime, a lot of other people who've been afraid to go out doors are out using the parks and public spaces.
However, some of the church goers whose kids originally went to the youth club are worried about using it now, they dont like passing by armies of hooded menacing kids (whether they really are menacing or not they DO want to and try to project menace) with their own kids, they're worried about their own kids mixing in with these other ones. They've acknowledged it because of the cultural space or distance between themselves and that population.
I asked them if I thought they'd become genteel or changed much themselves, like I've said they've moved on and moved up in some instances from the circumstance of this population of kids. They've admitted that could be part of it but they've also said that they reckon the estates have changed too, they're harder places to live now, the troubled families are much more troubled than they used to be, the issues are way more entrenched.
So what was started with the best will in the world has collided pretty badly with reality, what do you think about this? I'm thinking at the moment about how the experience of initiatives like this could be tracked and compared with the good and bad of more institutional responses like welfare state regimes.