What appeals to young people in Geretsried in public space? It shows Patrick Schmook from the mobile youth work in an interview with our newspaper.
Geretsried – Patrick Schmook has worked for the youth and social association (TVJA) Geretsried since September 2020. In parallel with his work, the 25-year-old studied social work in Benediktbeuern. In his thesis, the street worker addressed a very topical issue: “Mobile youth work: Socio-spatial appropriation using the case study of the town of Geretsried”. In an interview with our newspaper, Schmook shows what appeals to young people in the public space – and how he sees his role as a mobile youth worker in Geretsried.
Sir. Schmook, why do young people like to be in public space?
Smoke: Young people are constantly looking for space, especially in public space. It is of central importance on many levels.
What do you mean? Please explain.
Smoke: When you are young, you have certain developmental tasks. Among other things, it is about finding one’s identity and integrating into society. We live in times when young people have many opportunities, also through digitalisation. It was different 100 years ago. Maybe you could learn your dad’s job or something. Residence and place of work were very close to each other and usually also in the immediate vicinity of the public space. At that time, the orientation came mainly from the family. Today, young people are much more oriented towards their peers. Now that there are so many opportunities, young people are much more challenged to find their identity.
If young people today are more geared towards their peers: How important is the clique?
Smoke: The importance of the click has increased enormously. To form your identity you need the click. It is the fewest young people who can meet with their 15 friends at home because living conditions do not allow it. That is why public space is important. This is where the confrontation with other people takes place, also with regulatory adults. Something’s happening. It is in these moments that the young people develop.
Why do young people find Karl-Lederer-Platz so attractive compared to other places in the city?
Smoke: Karl-Lederer-Platz has a special appeal to young people because it is something new. They like that big city atmosphere, they told me. The shops that are there are otherwise only found in Munich. You can shop and consume there very well. There are contacts for people of all ages and reactions to one’s own behavior. That’s the exciting part.
How well do you know the young people who meet there?
Smoke: There are many young people there between the ages of 10 and 13, the elderly do not meet there so often anymore. I’ve never seen 70 percent before. I need to win your trust first. Trust and neutrality towards young people, this is the focus of the mobile youth work’s approach to work. With some cliques, it took half a year before we could talk about important things and I could help and advise as a social worker.
The young people react to you …
Smoke: … consistently polite and appreciative.
How do you personally view your role?
Smoke: It is my job to reach young people who are no longer reached by other social services, who also do not come to the youth center or no longer want to be reached, and who exclude themselves. I see myself as a guest in their environment and everyday life. And when I’m a guest somewhere, it’s not my place to criticize in the first place. If I’m invited to dinner somewhere, I do not look under the closet and say: You need to clean up. You can do that when you know each other better.
But you certainly know the current difficult situation at Karl-Lederer-Platz.
Smoke: I know there is a conflict brewing. But it is not me who sanctions, I stand behind the young people who advocate. I try to make them aware of their behavior and make them understand that people live there and that waste is produced that costs money to dispose of. It’s just annoying and ugly.
Did you also have contact with local residents?
Smoke: Yes. And according to my observation, the contacts between young people and adults are not only negative. There are also people who speak to young people as equals, and I welcome that. And I have heard from many quarters that there is generally nothing wrong with young people being in public places.
But the behavior of some teens brings the whole place to the center of disrepute. Recently, they blew up PET bottles.
Smoke: Young people seek contact and discussion with adults. I try to make it clear to them that it is up to them how they behave there and whether the space remains open permanently or closes to them at some point. From the beginning, there was no video surveillance and signs forbidding you to sit on the stairs. It would be a shame if you no longer had to stay at PulsG.
Has video surveillance triggered anything among young people?
Smoke: You already feel that you are being monitored. And they know the pictures will be judged too.
Young people do not only meet at Karl-Lederer-Platz. Do you think there are other places with usage conflicts?
Smoke: At Johannisplatz, the young people meet regularly around the Holy Family Church. There I am in contact with the city priest Andreas Vogelmeier. The main problem is the waste that is left behind. Garbage and shards of glass are the problem at Isarau Stadium. In my opinion, living together on Neuer Platz works quite well. Parents look out from the balcony and see what their children are doing. There is better social control.
Do you see a driver for such problems in the corona pandemic?
Smoke: I only know youth work during the Corona pandemic, so much in advance. My impression is that the young people have a great need to meet outside to catch up. That is, to party and also to consume alcohol. That was not the case in March last year. When the weather is good, a lot happens outside. It will be an exciting summer. There has to be a lot for me to do. It helps that I get more out of town from the middle of the month. Upon completion of my studies, I can work the 24 hours a week contractually agreed between the city and the sponsorship association in the public space.
The sponsorship association intends to be more present in public places with special offers.
Smoke: From May we will be out of youth work. When and how precisely we still need to clarify internally. My impression is that for some young people, evil is the wrong energy. Hopefully with our range of activities we can offer something that they can put their energy into. This can be a mobile basketball hoop or artistic offerings. If we are there regularly, we are also easier to contact local residents. And maybe the generations are playing with each other. For he who plays with me is my friend.
There is a district management on Johannisplatz, on Neuer Platz and in the Stein district, but not on Karl-Lederer-Platz. Would neighborhood management help from your point of view?
Smoke: Conflicts of use could certainly be resolved more easily.
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