Regulating or closing down the YMCA

16 years ago...

The comments on this site back up my own opinion of Surbiton - a great place to live with one major problem - the YMCA.

I seems to me that virtually all of the 'low and mid level' crime in the town centre originates with the inmates of this centre. Whenever I see anyone who looks slightly dodgy in Surbiton, you can guarantee that the next time I see them they will be coming in or out of the YMCA (or the back of a police van).

The problem is that other Surbiton residents are not happy to walk back from the station on their own in case they encounter someone from the YMCA. I often worry about inviting people from outside of the area for an evening in Surbiton for the same reason. This would be ok if we lived somewhere closer in to London, and the disturbances came from a number of sources, but almost every problem in Surbiton seems to originate in the same place.

The rambling post was prompted by an article in today's Evening Standard newspaper, showing two girls being bottled by a man in the Surbiton station subway. Unsuprisingly, the man was later caught in the YMCA.

Is there anyway that we can lobby the council to either close down the YMCA or to regulate it more closely so only a limited number of inmates at any one time are allowed to come from high risk groups?

Any ideas?


Yeah you’re an idiot - where do the people go that need help and somewhere to live not everyone is bad that lives there - do you not think crime is everywhere in london not just surbiton.

Erm, do you realise that you are replying to a comment made 13 years ago?

I lived in Surbiton at that time and can confirm that the YMCA was a big problem in the area back then and that things have improved vastly since then.

One of the most unfortunate things about the state that the YMCA got into in those days is that people did start to assume that everyone living there was 'bad', when that clearly wasn't the case.

I'm not sure what happened to transform the YMCA, but it now seems a completely different facility and one that it's residents and neighbours can be proud of.

Of course crime happens everywhere, and I'm sure that a certain amount of criminal activity still emanates from the YMCA, but it is a world away from being the epicentre of crime and anti-social behaviour that it was 13 years ago.

The YMCA has set up a meeting on Wednesday 15 October to discuss some of the concerns raised recently about its residents and some of the issues raised in this forum. Representatives from the YMCA management, the Safer Neighbourhood Team, local Ward Councillors, Resident Associations and Business Watch have been invited and are expected to attend.

If you would like to attend this meeting please contact Paul Coates by email. or by tel. 020 8390 0148 for further details.

I hope all contributors to this forum will be there. For myself I intend to sit there and listen to you all, so feel free to introduce yourself or make it clear you're from the forum when you speak.

For those of you who attended the Maple Meeting you will know me. To anyone else, using the description I have collated - I am the shuffling, old fool with one foot in the grave and thus have no right to an opinion...cannot miss me :)

The man responsible for the disgraceful incident involving a broken beer bottle wasn't even a resident at the YMCA. He was caught at the YMCA whilst visiting his friends. I myself have had to move into the YMCA, I had little option, you dont have many options when your being kicked out of the place you where living because you cant afford to pay the rent and the landlord wont accept the social paying your rent.

If the YMCA shut's down, would the residents of Surbiton be happy to see homeless people all over the street's out sleeping in doorways holding their hand out busking off passes by with no where else to go?

"Th mn rspnsbl fr th ncdnt nvlvng brkn br bttl wsn't vn rsdnt t th YMC. H ws cght t th YMC whlst .... vstng hs frnds " myslf hv hd t mv nt th YMC ..." hd lttl ptn, y dnt hv mny ptns whn yr bng kckd t f th plc y whr lvng bcs y cnt ffrd t py th rnt <>Wht n ttr lflss xmpl f th hmn rc y mst b<>

The above text has been deliberately disemvowelled as it is in breach of the terms.

The problem is that begging goes on already, and it is mainly the residents at the YMCA that are doing it. If the YMCA closed down, the amount of begging in Surbiton would actually decrease. Most beggars only beg in Surbiton because they are housed there - if they weren't then Kingston or London would provide much better begging opportunities.

All sounds a bit NIMBY to me :)


I have received an email from Paul Coates (Surbiton YMCA) telling me that the September 17 meeting with the councillors is likely to be held at the Guildhall, in the morning. Don't know about you but I shall be a work (a strange concept!).

On my own behalf and nobody elses I have emailed all concerned that the meeting should be at the Surbiton YMCA in the evening. Afterall the 'challenge' was for forum members "to come and meet us".

Could it be that the management don't want the meeting there. If so, I have to ask why? Don't ALL answer at once :)

We've set up an event page, but if anyone has any more details can they please let us know.

Meeting to discuss Surbiton YMCA webmaster

Today I spoke with Paul Coates of the Surbiton YMCA about the forthcoming meeting. It seems it is a regular affair not open to the public. If however you want to attend then you should contact one of three St.Mark's Ward Councillors who are trying to 'round up' people with concerns. Hopefully Paul Coates will contact me again as he has my details.

Oh yes. I have been informed by a member of the local press that someone made a threat against the Surbiton YMCA. You are a bloody fool, and I hope the police find and deal with you in the manner such a threat deserves. You do nobody on this forum any service and in fact you are worse than any of the baddest residents the YMCA has or has had in my view!

Leslie, take a deep breath and think about it!

Your quote ..

".. someone made a threat against the Surbiton YMCA"

Your quote ..

"You do nobody on this forum any service and in fact you are worse than any of the baddest residents the YMCA has or has had in my view!"

Why do you assume someone on this forum made that threat?

Explain Leslie, my respect for your posts have dropped to ZERO!

Two points after advised deep breath.

1. It was told to me by a member of the press. When I said I had not seen it, or even be notified of it via 'recent comment' the reply was "it must have been taken down quickly".
2. If someone is doing stupid things out there such as threats it undermines us. We cannot talk about criminal and anti-social bahaviour just to have it all thrown back in our faces because of someone elses stupid actions.

Inconclusive, what threat and how does he know its from this forum?

OK. Phone Kerry Grove (Surrey Comet) on 020 8330'll find her email details somewhere on this forum as well.

This is getting ridiculous. What next, pitch forks and flaming torches with Igor at the door repelling mobs for Dr Frankenstein?

Today I paid a visit to a YMCA. Not in Surbiton, but in Fitzroy Square in London. In fact it was the Indian YMCA where we had lunch for approx £5 per person. The place was very clean (almost Spartan) and very very friendly. I'd advise anyone near it around 12-2pm to pop in and try the curries.

If the YMCA were to close down, what would you all like to see replace it?

A space launch platform that could send Zaphod Beeblebrox safely back to his home town on Betelgeuse which is 427 light-years away from the YMCA

A gigantic wind turbine combined with a mobile phone switch/relay mast so that we could blow away all the hot air and get a decent signal in Lovelace Gardens.

T-Mobile, excellent signal in the 'Loveshack Gardens'!

Who cares, anything!

Another gym! I know Surbiton has a couple, but I don't much like the choices. I'm thinking of a Virgin Active center. They don't house homeless people do they? -Chelsea Blacker

So the Surrey Comet (20/8/2008) says that "Surbiton internet forum users complaining about YMCA are being urged to reveal their true indentidies and discuss their worries face to face." We are invited to their next meeting on September 17. Also "Local ward councillors will be asked to round up the concerned parties ahead of their quarterly meeting with several Victoria Road businesses.

Well I for one WILL be attending the September 17 meeting. There a simple challenge will be issued. Those who defend the unacceptable must pay a price if they are wrong. Should there be a successful
drugs arrest against a YMCA resident, or if any resident seriously assaults a member of the public from the 17th September onwards I will ask for resignations.

Let me make my position quite clear as I have been researching the issue:
1. I do NOT want the YMCA closed down.
2. I do NOT object to homeless youngsters or elderly being housed there.
3. I do NOT object to ex-service personnel being housed there.
4. I DO recognise that NO arsonist, sex offenders or serious violent criminals are housed there.
5. I will NOT tolerate any drug users or aloholics being housed there as I have seen first hand the damage, crime and violence they inflict.

After this meeting I will not contribute to the YMCA 'thread'. Should the drugs arrest or assault occur then those who wish to 'know my true identidy' will find an adversary more than a match. To those interested parties who read this, i.e. MP, Councillors, YMCA Management, Media, do not doubt that I will call for the resignations publically.

Thank you dear Leslie, at last an intellectual view on the YMCA issues and clearly with guts and compassion

We don’t normally post here, just view and we will be there and we will also identify ourselves as a now poster on this thread with pride.

This issue is nothing to do with CLASS, RACE, CREED or COLOUR but how the YMCA is 'housing' these people who clearly need better guidance and support

The YMCA is not the place and the staff are not trained on the 'halve-way' offenders or how to deal with these appropriately

I feel so much for the other ‘residents’ in that place and the local residents that have to live with this (in silence) until that meeting (or beyond yet again)!

Thanks again for an honest and intelligent view of the situation as (after a decade
Now) this is giving us pensioners in Lovelace road, hope in allowing us to retire with dignity, grace and pride in our beloved town

Mr and Mrs E Evans

Dear Mr & Mrs Evans,

Your kind comments are well received. You correctly state that this issue has nothing to do with class, race, creed or colour. I look forward to anyone throwing one of the "isms" at me as I have a foreign born wife, mixed race son, differing faiths, culture and colour within my household. Oh, and just to put the candles on the cake we were classified as 'homeless' by the RBK Homeless Unit for appox 18 months. As bad as most people think the situation is at the YMCA it could be a lot worse believe me. There is a system working there (which needs reviewing).

Let me assure you that I am well known to Edward Davey MP. We have fought alongside each other before and will do so again. He is a decent man and open to suggestions. Once he realises I have concerns he will do so knowing that I have recent personal experience of dealing with drug users and alcoholics. He knows that I did not back off then and I will not this time. The best we can hope for after this meeting is a total review of the 'situation'. Now that doesn't sound a lot, but if asked I will become involved. Rest assured if that is the case I will want assurances that anyone responsible for causing trouble or ignoring troublemakers will be removed from the YMCA.

It is often said by so-call experts that all you need to do to stop antisocial behaviour is to give people things to do. Er, how many facilities does the YMCA have? I look forward to meeting you both....

Best wishes, Leslie

Yet another 2 cops vans rush to the YMCA last night

Apparently it was quite serious, probably read all about it in the Surrey comet

cn jst mgn St Mrk's Bbl spndng 24 hrs dy sqttng n n f th drk, bndnd bldngs crss frm th YMC, mstrbtng frsly vry tm th plc gt clld.

The above text has been deliberately disemvowelled as it is in breach of the terms.


The above text has been deliberately disemvowelled as it is in breach of the terms.

All three of these dudes are useless as the reply or respond button on their outlook accounts don’t seem to work, how appropriate, blame IT!

I think that the YMCA should not tolerate people who are a danger to Surbiton residents I think it would be a loss to the community if it closed as it offers other services apart from putting a roof over people's heads. But there should be zero tolerance where criminal behaviour and drug taking or dealing is concerned. There are hostels available for these people that are regulated, they are probably not as comfortable as the YMCA but if they can't behave then certain privileges should be taken away from them.

I think that everyone should express their concerns to the 3 liberal councillors who are responsible for the Ward the YMCA is in. Its their job to come up with a solution. Their email addresses are as follow for those who really have an issue with this.

bmb th [cnsrd]r sy

The above text has been deliberately disemvowelled as it is in breach of the terms.

I find the sterotyping and assumptions by alot of people in this whole thread, paramount to racist propaganda. Sure there are some low lifes staying there, though remarkably enough there the ones trying to sort there act out. ANY crime commited in the area and people assume its due to YMCA residents. This is not only insulting but ignoranance up there with the slave trade. Fact is they have a police station inside the YMCA so people see police and assume its all bad. Now i'm not saying everybody there is perfect, indeed the main traouble seems to be the young girls who are in transition to getting pregnant to secure there first council house, sad but true. They drink and cause a nightmare for alot of people. But to tarnish every resident with the same brush is not only ignarant but also wrong.

Remarkably you can actualy do the right thingsin life and have no criminal record and still end up being homless thru no fault of your own. Indeed I see alot of people crying into there milk as there overstretched mortage starts to creek and they just look for somebody to blame in anyway beyond themselves for being part of the `false economy` in the first place.

Oh and as for the "The rambling post was prompted by an article in today's Evening Standard newspaper, showing two girls being bottled by a man in the Surbiton station subway. Unsuprisingly, the man was later caught in the YMCA." - seriously do some research. If it wasn;t for the YMCA and there security and staff this person who was nothing to do withthe YMCA would not of been caught in a timely fasion and might of gone on to hurt others, so if anything the YMCA should be praised upon such matter and not presumed to be the cause and fuel for a chap who had nothing to do with the YMCA or indeed Surbiton beyond being a problem for everybody - shame on you and your lack of facts and ignorant presumptions, people like you make me just as sick as people like him. Indeed on some level your worse as you go around slinging mud were it isn;t needed. Well wake up and smell the full facts and appreciate that your actualy part of the problem and not the solution. Heck what do you want - to make honest people who are on hard luck to suffer just becasue a few bad eggs make a mess, indeed when alot of the eggs are absolutly nothing to do with the YMCA in question.

People need to work together and come up with positive constructive ways forward and look at the whole picture instead of just throwing mud, then and only then will we have a better place to live in. If you have a problem with the YMCA - go talk to the YMCA and get the full facts and if its something thats comming from the YMCA then you can bet they will not only admit it but already be doing something about it. Shame you cant admit your own shortcommings and go around seeing the worst in people instead of being more positive.

I also understand that they have a restaurant inside the YMCA that sells highly calorific snacks,which might also account for the frequent police presence.

Well my family was listed as 'homeless' back in 2004-5: so don't give me that excuse.

I have no criminal record despite having very little: I did not resort to crime for an excuse.

There is not a police station inside the YMCA. It is where the Police Team work from on varying days, but not all week and not through the night.

From my own experience (and logbook) I know of at least 2-3 reported crimes (with CAD numbers) that involved residents of the YMCA on this property.

"Paramount to racist propagada": When that 'card' is played I laugh. My foreign born wife laughs also. I can honestly say with all the druggies, alcoholics and criminal types we encountered they bever resorted to racism. For all they are, they do not sink that low!

Goor try, but not above Year 7 debating :)

Not exactly sure what your trying to say but I did find the closing remark one of the funniest one has read in a while:

`Goor try, but not above Year 7 debating :)`

Genius, pure genius.

Nice spot!! That will teach me. 15-15 your service :)

A pretty amzing viewpoint, there. I think we will have to agree to disagree, but I just wanted to clarify a couple of points in my original post:

1. At no point did I say or imply that everyone in the YMCA causes problems or deny that it does good work in the community.

2. I think the point about the 'bottle man' who was caught in the YMCA is particularly valid. He was apprehended whilst using the Internet in the YMCA after the attack. There are several Internet cafes closer to the station than the YMCA, so why would he have chosen that one? The YMCA encourages troublemakers like this into the town to visit their existing residents, and I would be prepared to bet that this was the case here.

When I started this thread, I want to gain people's views on whether they felt the YMCA should be closed down or more closely regulated. I think that the majority of the replies have backed up my own initial view - closing it would destroy all of the positive work that the centre does and dissipate the problems further into the community BUT it should not be allowed to carry on running without much stronger regulation.

Just because the YMCA does excellent work in supporting vulnerable people (good and bad), that does not mean that it should not be responsible for dealing with the problems that some of them cause. They are being funded to look after these people, so it is unacceptable if passers by are subjucted to abuse/initimidation/urine and all of the other problems referred to in this thread.

Apart from being good for the general population of Surbiton, this would surely make the YMCA a more attractive place for people who have genuinely fallen on hard times and need to stay in the centre.

Sorry, this post was mine but I forgot to log in first.

Again I saw a women [lady] (PC restricted stating which ethnic group) giving another women (is that sexist these days) outside Waitrose some money, the 'giver' totally unaware what she was giving the money for!

Its like the song 'Park Life' feeding the birds to make yourself feel better for the day, then going home and reading the bad news around the world, only to turn to the TV page

Who’s the most patronising?

The woman outside Waitrose is a Big Issue seller though, so it may be slightly better - there is some sort of regulation there, and she does not look like a drug user.

At the end of the day, Surbiton is a real town in 2008 outer London, not the sleepy suburb that it was 15 years ago. These days, you can only avoid this type of problem if you go and live in the back of beyond with a 1 hour commute into town every day. Surbiton is better than almost all similar places, so we should not complain too much - it is just frustrating when you see people encouraging begging like this.

I wont give money to beggars now for similar reasons - they are entilled to benefits etc
and if they choose to spend all of it on alcohol or drugs thats their choice really
I'm not going to help fund this

I know friends who have offered to actually buy them some food or a (non alcoholic) drink and this has actually been refused!!
again - not saying all people who resort to begging are like this - but just from what I've seen of the 'regulars' in surbiton

On the topic of kalidescope I think its much better than it used to be, I think after quite a few incidents there were several raids, there are activly discorraged from hanging around outside and cameras are now in place - but I think they just sit a bit further down by the end of that parade of shops

again it is a similar thing to the YMCA - they do some absolutley fantastic work there and provide a much needed service

the thing with addiction is the person needs to actually want to stop and some times this doesnt happen.......

Thanks for posting that Leslie you have expressed your concerns in an intelligent and articulate manner. From what you have read I think it is very irresponsible of the YMCA to house people that are obviously dangerous and will end up hurting someone badly or killing them. Drugs and alcohol are dangerous in that they can alter a person's behaviour and sometimes a placid individual can become violent after consuming drugs and/or booze. There should be institutions available for these types of people to live in although they are usually homeless through their own doing. But I don't think that innocent residents should be made to suffer in the way you describe. Edward Davey needs to wake up to the dangers of keeping dangerous individuals in a residential area.

Is the Surbiton YMCA and it's residents responsible for the crime in the area. Not all of it I am certain, but there is enough 'activity' there for the police to be called out often. Living in Victoria Avenue I know that the situation was bad when there was a drugs flat above me. Once three YMCA residents (drunk, or on some other substance) broke in the door on the main house. Why? Don't really know, but it could have been because they want some 'action' upstairs. The police were called and the residents upstairs identified them as being from the YMCA. I have seen plenty of people hanging around the entrance who ended up in the flat above.

Since the residents were evicted there has been no further trouble, although there is a 'recognisable element' entering and leaving the property opposite (YMCA owned?). I support Ed Davey is most things, but the residents of Surbiton need protection. Do we have to wait until there is a stabbing at the YMCA or one involving it's resident? The ex-servicemen there need help, not as charity, but as a right. The homeless need help, but should behave so that they are offered permanent homes so they can live in peace with their neighbours. The drug addicts and alcoholics are from my own personal observations victims of their own stupidity. I have seen them begging....and then go to their bank ATM. They ask for change for tea or a fare.....but it goes on booze. They demand rights, but do not respect the rights of others. Once on finding one coming through our side gate at 4am I refused to let them enter. They wanted to shout up to their friend on the first floor to be let in. I was threatened with having 'my head cut off.' The police came and theythe drunk said I had breached their right to see their friend. Not one brain cell registered that residents had the right to sleep, of peace and security.

The sooner these people wake up to themselves the better. Only they can help themselves. If you do it they laugh at you behind your back. If you want proof of how useless the schemes they are on are then take a trip to the London Road in Kingston. Go to the Futon shop end opposite Kingston Grammar School most weekdays after 1pm and you will see them there.....

Excellent comments from someone who has had to live with the problems caused by this type of person.

I doubt that the place opposite you was 'YMCA owned' but is more likely to be another place that the council uses to house homeless and vulnerable people. No one is arguing that these people do not need care and support, but putting them up in the YMCA or a flat with no supervision is just asking for trouble. Vulnerable people are more likely to become involved in drugs and anti-social activities - leaving them alone to get on with it is harmful to them and those who have to live in the surrounding area.

It is a very sad situation, and it just goes to show nowhere is immune. I saw a house just off Victoria Avenue on the market for almost £2m recently - if it can happen in a road like this, what is it like in the cheaper areas like Chessington and Tolworth etc?

The associated begging is another problem. I still cannot believe the amount of people that are happy to give them money or used train tickets, thus encouraging this type of behaviour. I even heard one of the YMCA residents refer to travelcard begging as 'going to work'! It is going to be very hard to get these people to improve their behaviour whilst normal people are accepting/encouraging it.

The Kaleidoscope project is the one you refer to in London Road. It used to be really bad, but I have not been past there lately.

Does anyone know if all other YMCAs suffer from the same problems? (e.g. there are massive centres in Wimbledon and Guildford)

The property I mentioned that could be 'YMCA owned' might well be so. The YMCA has a Housing Association. If this house is one of theirs it doesn't help that I have seen quite a few people who entered the old crack flat entering there. Of course it could be a case of smoke without fire....

The sad thing about addiction is -

some of them NEVER want help and dont want to sort themsleves out -

(despite lots of organisations like their community drug and alcohol team / kalidescope etc being thier if they want it)

and their family and the wider community suffer at a result

these people need to be held accountable for their actions - however the criminal justice system is not stepping up to the mark,

responsibilty for 'careing' for these people is being shifted to places like the YMCA - who just arnt equipped (and neither should they be - unless they are transfred into a bail hostel) to probation / drug alcohol communtiy team - and responsibility for thier own actions isnt being recognised

even if you are a substance misuser/ mental health sufferer (unless completely psychotic and unaware of 'reality' )

you still know 'right from wrong' and need to be held accountable for your actions - if you act unsociably or break the law

htspnnrs (k MSJMR) Smth Clrly y r sd twt t hv t s tw d's

The above text has been deliberately disemvowelled as it is in breach of the terms.

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