St Albans Christian group offers safe space for youths

TEENAGERS looking for somewhere to hang out and be with their mates have found themselves the perfect sanctuary, thanks to a local Christian youth charity.

Project 2:67 has been running a series of coffee evenings for over two and a half years aimed at giving teenagers a comfortable and safe space to hang out with their friends. These evenings began again this month at the Merchant Tea and Coffee Company at St Albans Town Hall and are held every Monday from 7pm.

They are loosely structured around a theme or topic and the young people are given plenty of opportunity to express their views and ideas.

They are also given adequate ‘chill-out’ time, safe in the knowledge that they aren’t about to be moved on unless they buy another coffee.

Michael Palin is the man behind Project 2:67 and the coffee evenings, known as the More? Cafe, were inspired after he noticed how desperate young people were for somewhere to go.

He said: “I saw this in a really simple way on Saturdays in Starbucks in the town centre when 10-15 young people are crowded round one drink and one table, not causing any trouble, but just wanting to hang out and chat with their mates.”

Michael, who has been a full-time youth and children’s worker for more than 12 years, said it was vital that people with the ability to do so began to consider providing safe spaces for young people to congregate, or they would end up in places such as St Peter’s Church graveyard, Verulamium Park and the Vintry Gardens.

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It is with this aim that Michael has begun talks with the council to work towards providing a safe space for young people to hang out in. The space won’t be dominated by a programme of events, although there will be some, and Michael plans to emulate the environment that has proved so popular at the More? Cafe coffee evenings.

The discussions with the council are in their early stages but Michael added: “We want to assure young people that there are adults out there working for them and fighting their corner.

“We want young people to hear about our ideas and we want to hear theirs. We’re also keen to develop strong links with the local community and are keen to share our ideas with local businesses who may like to sponsor or support this project.”

Project 2:67 offers advice, support, encouragement, resources and training in all areas of youth and children’s work. It has worked with 25 churches across the district to create a network of advice, resources and support and regularly organises weekends away for three or four youth groups at a time, to make it possible for smaller groups to attend.

The name of the group comes from the Bible verse Colossians 2:6-7 which reflects the aims and work of the Project.