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Out on the streets with Streetbase, Waltham Forest

Streetbase is a street based, Young Advisor’s, peer-to-peer outreach programme that helps support young people and addresses serious youth violence. Currently funded by the London Violence Reduction Programme Vanguard, Streetbase recruits and coordinates young people to go out and talk with other young people in the borough – wherever they hang out- about their lives, needs and perspectives on making change in their local communities. This month, In-Touch talked to Gulcin Sariyildiz, Young Advisor and the current Waltham Forest Streetbase Coordinator and Jane Brueseke, the Youth Engagement and Participation Manager. This is what they had to say…

What do your team enjoy most about working with this cohort of young people?

Gulcin: Engagement and the impact as a result of engagement, are the most important things when talking with young people. They are strangers to us and yet they open up because we don’t judge them, so we must be doing something right. I remember one young man we kept engaging with used to just say ‘hi’ and that’s it, but one time he saw me outside of my work on the street and came up and gave me a hug. These small things have a massive impact on us and them.

The peer-to-peer element of interacting and engaging is the key, to getting people to open up to others. ‘I’ve turned my life around; you can do the same. If I can do it, you can do it.’

Jane: I think they see Streetbase as genuine because it is young people who will understand them better. Peer-to-peer relationship and engagement is Streetbase’s strength.

How have you been able to successfully engage with young people for this new model of care?

Gulcin: We don’t wait for young people to come to us. We go to them and if they don’t want to speak to us, we return. It starts a conversation, just young person to young person. This is how we build our conversational skills. We can also offer support as well, we have the knowledge of where they can go to find support with employment or routes out of smoking, or we can suggest a youth club.
It’s not just about filling in surveys and engaging but taking part in what other young people are doing. I’m not unrealistic, there are people who won’t engage but it’s about going to the same area again and again. In LLoyd Park (Walthamstow), people say ‘Hi’ to me now even when I’m off-duty.

Jane: Streetbase isn’t purely about the young people we are engaging and the impact, it’s about the Streetbase team themselves. Many have lived experiences and they’re building tools, skills and confidence by talking to so many people. For example, Gulcin joined us when she was 15 and now she’s leading the programme and able to articulate perfectly what the programme does.

How has the Vanguard model improved your partnerships with other organisations?

Jane: The first three years of Streetbase were funded by the Mayor’s Young Londoner’s Fund. It is only this year that we have been funded by the VR Programme. In terms of the Vanguard model, it’s been a little bit different.

As a whole, Streetbase feeds into the borough’s Violence Reduction Partnership so we always ensure there is a youth voice. We do a lot of work with colleagues in these areas, for example around Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) and hate crime and with the youth engagement team. Streetbase will often go to VAWG surgeries. We’ve done walkarounds with the police in certain areas.

Some of the Streetbase surveys come directly from the London Violence Reduction Partnership. When there’s a critical incident in the borough, we do direct work with the urgent response coordinator and Streetbase will go to those areas.
Peer Power have been doing work in our borough and we put them in touch with the youth offending service. A lot of my guys have different hats on. They might work with Peer Power or City Hall. We have good links because we have young people that are in different groups.

Gulcin: I feel it’s opened a lot of doors for us as well, with different organisations, going into City Hall for example, and networking with other young people and organisations. We also attend community events so the community knows we exist.

As a new model of care that promotes community embeddedness, what does your organisation do to support this?

Gulcin: We go to Lloyds Park in Walthamstow quite often and there is a young boy who chills there. He said he wanted to be involved in the Young Independent Advisory Group (YIAG) because two of his friends had been stabbed. Having him on our side will be very rewarding, it means we have been able to break down that barrier. He is telling us his friends are being stabbed and it’s making him want to change and change others’ perspectives. He’s so young, he can learn so much as a YIAG member.

Another time. we went to Chingford and the girls really didn’t want to speak to us at all. They thought we were the police, but we spoke with them for hours and they told us it stopped them from doing illegal activities. It felt so good to hear. We were just having normal conversations. It really stuck with me.

I feel like these normal conversations that broke down the barrier between the council and young people are the ones that always stick with me. It was a really good engagement with the ‘hard to reach’ that makes me happy.

Jane: Streetbase may be engaging young people for some time, finding out what their interests are. We can really inform other services, making sure they are tailored to young people in the area. We can give a unique perspective on what young people want, what they don’t want, what will make them come to something and not come to something.

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