YOUTH leaders in Strabane have made an urgent plea for a drop-in centre to be established in the town to take young people off the streets.
Recently there has been increasing reports of young people gathering in large groups along the river bank or in dangerous derelict buildings during the weekends.
The gatherings have been causing major disturbances to families and elderly residents around the town.
Youth leaders at Melmount Community Forum believe these young people are gathering outdoors as there is no other facilities available and a drop-in centre would provide entertainment for them while also giving them a safe place to gather.
Ivan Barr, development officer at Melmount Community Forum says the development of a drop-in centre is essential for the young people as there is currently nowhere for them to go.
Mr Barr said, “For a town the size of Strabane, we do not have a fit-for-purpose youth facility or a drop-in centre so in the meantime, what are the youth supposed to do?
“These young people are gathering on a cold Friday or Saturday night so we have to find an alternative and somewhere they can go rather than sitting along the river bank or in derelict buildings.
“The reality is they need somewhere safe to go and Strabane does not have the facility. We need something that is theirs, fit for purpose and in the centre of the town.
“These young people are not bad kids, they just have nowhere to go.”
Mr Barr said the project has been on the cards for over eight years but it has not yet been delivered in Strabane.
He continued, “Derry has multiple drop-in centres and we have visited ones in Omagh and Carrickmore, but Strabane is still looking for one.
“There have been many promises made over the years but they never come to fruition. There are community centres and halls that the young people can go to for exercise or activities, but these are not specifically drop-in centres.
“I know there is an ongoing programme to try and get a fit for purpose facility and they are unsure where it could be sited, but it has been going on far too long,” he explained.
“We can run events and programmes for these young people, but this is not what they want, they want freedom and no supervision which is why a drop-in centre would be perfect.”
Andy Gallagher, chair of Melmount Forum said a drop-in centre would be extremely beneficial to the whole town.
Mr Gallagher said, “I have been highlighting the need for a drop-in centre for a long, long time.
“A while ago we did something similar to a drop-in centre in Fountain Street for 16-year-olds and over, and it was great for them. The young people came in from 7-11pm and when we came in the next morning, everything was left clean and tidy.
“These people need somewhere to go at night and they need it now.
“Somewhere to play Playstation or games, talk to each other and do things that young people do without us looking over them.
“These young people have nowhere to go at the minute, and until we have something, unfortunately, they will continue to gather on the streets,” said Mr Gallagher.