A PROTEST was held at a youth drop-in facility in Andover this week.

Councillors, staff and service users of The Junction picketed the centre in protest of Hampshire County Council’s funding cut on Tuesday.

As previously reported by this paper, the future of the drop-in centre hangs in the balance after the county council announced plans to cut funding by £56,000 next financial year – more than half its funding.

The £56,000 cut means the centre may no longer be able to fund its wide range of projects, which include counselling, music lessons and emergency homeless kits.

The Junction said they had 7,129 visits from young people who needed a safe place or support in the last year.

One mother, Tracey Cooke, believes her son would be in prison if it was not for the centre.

Her son, Luke, stressed how The Junction has helped him greatly.

He said: “I’ve made so many friends here, staff are friendly.

“They’ve even called me by my name, Luke.

“I’d feel devastated if it were to close down. I would not have anywhere to go.

“I’m friends with pretty much everyone here and I feel accepted here.

“It’s kept a lot of teenagers off the streets because they have somewhere to go and someone to talk to and it’s a really chilled environment.” Councillor Tim Rolt, of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Iris Andersen, of Test Valley Borough Council, and Councillor Katherine Bird, of Andover Town Council joined in the protest.

Another service user, Jasmin Coombs, said she would be devastated if The Junction were to close.

The 23-year-old mother-of-two said she was on her own from 17 and the facility helped her with housing, education and benefits.

She said: “They don’t charge me, they just help me.

“They are also like a friend here, I can come here and have a chat and a cup of tea.

“I’ve never been refused here for help.

“I’d be devastated if they closed because I was was in college when I came here and I was all on my own and they just helped me.

“I feel like I’m rich now and you can’t put a price on it.”