Youth Violence Prevention Funding In Jeopardy

This week the Springfield City Council again put off a vote on whether to accept state grant money for youth violence and gang prevention programs. Some city councilors want assurance that various community organizations are getting a fair shot at receiving funds.

There are a handful of organizations in Springfield designed to keep young people off the streets and out of trouble, and they rely on funding from various sources. Last year, in his state-of-the-Commonwealth address, Governor Patrick announced a $10 million Safe and Successful Youth Initiative. Now several groups are hoping to receive a portion of those funds.

"It's for youth and gang violence, but it's all that leads up to it as well. Weapons possession, drug dealing, gang affiliation, assaultive behavior."

Sergeant Brian Elliott is the grant writer for the Springfield police department. He says the 800 thousand dollars would be dispersed to established organizations in the city, not startups. They must prove that their programs are successful and focused on violence prevention. One such organization, Roca, is awaiting funding. Roca has offices in Springfield and Chelsea, Massachusetts, and targets young adults between the ages of 18 and 24. The organization provides transitional employment, where participants learn to work and build relationships that will encourage them to work consistently. Molly Baldwin is the executive director of Roca.

"They get paid minimum wage for every hour they work but given their level of disconnection it average about 18 months for them to get 60 days of work in a row."

Baldwin says more funding would keep the participants working jobs in carpentry, painting and landscaping. Elliott says that while the city council holds off on a vote, the programs risk losing the funding altogether.