In light of recent tragic events, many residents have inquired about the City’s efforts regarding youth and young adults. In this correspondence I hope to shed some light on several of the efforts that the City has proactively undertaken in this area.
First, our Police Department remains diligent in their efforts to protect the residents of this community. The tireless work of Chief Richard Eddington and his staff have prevented numerous crimes and mitigated what has been a truly difficult time in the City for us all. Their proactive efforts will continue with the goal of preventing similar incidents in the future. But this is a multi- pronged issue and as such will require a comprehensive approach aimed at deterrence and proactive community engagement.
Second, it is important to note that since 2010, the City of Evanston has taken numerous steps to more effectively reach and engage our youth and young adult population, with a particular focus on “at-risk” or “opportunity” youth ranging from age 17-25 years old. The City realizes that this is a vitally important part of our community and has partnered with members of the community as well as non-profit organizations and the faith-based community to make a more resolute effort to positively impact the lives of these individuals.
There have been several key activities relative to youth and young adults that the City has undertaken over the past 2 years including the development of a Mayor’s Youth & Young Adult Task Force, a reconstitution of the Mayor’s Youth Council, the Mayor’s Safe Summer Summit, the Anti-violence Town Hall meeting following Dajae Coleman’s death and the creation of the Mayor’s Super Summer Recreation Program.
Third, one of the most progressive actions the Mayor and City Council implemented with the FY 2012 Budget was the creation of a Youth and Young Adult Division to specifically focus on our 17-25 year demographic. This division includes the following trained staff: program manager, assistant program manager, and two outreach workers. They are charged with implementing data supported best practices for effective outreach to youth and young adults and connecting them to valuable social, educational and vocational/workforce development resources.
In its short existence (March 2012), the Youth and Young Adult Division has successfully taken the following actions:
• Expanded Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program (MSYEP) outreach to alternative schools and programs serving at-risk students
• Partnered with Y.O.U., YWCA, and Youth Job Center to secure a $500,000 Homeless and Runaway At-Risk Youth Grant which will fund two additional part-time outreach workers
• Developed Strategic Youth and Young Adult Operational Plan
• Opened a satellite office at Mason Park to serve at-risk youth and young adults
• Developed recreational programming targeted towards the participation of At-Risk Youth at Family Focus and Fleetwood Jourdain (example Open Mic Night)
• Partnered with the Youth Job Center to create the Building Career Pathways to Sustainable Employment Pilot Program which provides 15 Evanston “opportunity” youth with workforce training and job placement opportunities
• Acquired Community Development Block Grant funds to implement Senate Bill 1050 for Certificate of Rehabilitation Program
• Established a partnership with Illinois CureViolence Program – formerly known as Ceasefire – and held outreach training for City staff and Evanston Township High School social workers
• Partnered with community based anti-violence activists and assisted in the development & implementation of a community-sponsored Gun Buyback Program which resulted in the collection of 45 guns.
• Is working with ETHS and Oakton Community College officials to secure a partnership for Oakton to provide vocational courses and certificate programs at ETHS
• Provides daily outreach to young adults identified as at medium and high risk for violence and assists them in formulating life plans by linking them to local service providers and resources based upon interest and need.
• Partnered with James B. Moran Center to provide support for youth and young adults in juvenile justice system
• Proactively partnered with the Evanston Police Department on various crime mitigation strategies.
Fourth, the City’s efforts have not been limited to one division, as community violence is a City wide concern. As such, other departmental activities include
• Enhancing street lighting and tree trimming activities in targeted areas
• Providing additional security cameras around Evanston Township High School
• Creating a Facebook page and new resource website for youth and young adults
• Is providing economic development assistance to organizations such as Curt’s Café, a non-profit organization that employs and trains young adult ex-offenders for re-entry into the workforce
• Is evaluating each infrastructure improvement and development project to identify ways that the project can be designed to deter crime such as the installation of cul de sacs, pedestrian lighting, limiting access and egress, etc., for the High School and adjacent neighborhoods
• Is developing a safe-neighborhood infrastructure and lighting improvement plan
• Brought in Health Center (Erie Family Health Center) that will provide appropriate health care and psychosocial supports to achieve positive outcomes.
• Is partnering with Peer Services and Erie Family Health Center, introducing high-risk young people to age-appropriate and culturally sensitive approaches to behavioral care, and is encouraging young people to take a proactive role in making healthy life choices and stop smoking.
• Is partnering with District 65, District 202 on Wellness Council “Let’s Move’ initiative to improve physical activity and good nutrition
• Is supporting community gardening project for West-End Market Second Chance program for ex-offenders.
Finally, the City realizes that our efforts, while numerous, must continue in the attempt to keep our community and our young people safe. We also realize that the resolution to recent community violence requires a dynamic partnership with the community where we all commit to do our part to make this City a better place for our young people. The City will continue to enhance our proactive youth and young adult outreach efforts as well as deploy police in the areas of need as necessary.
But that is not enough.
Here are a few ways that you can help us to mitigate the recurrence of recent events:
1. If you see something, say something. If you witness strange activity in your community, call 911 or text the police. Anonymously Text-A-Tip to CRIMES (274637), using the keyword EPDTIP. It is important to note that this excellent idea came from ETHS students at a Youth Council meeting with the Mayor.
2. Form a neighborhood watch or block watch group in your community. They are effective ways to deter crime & violent activity.
3. Volunteer to be a mentor. Many young people need guidance to make better decisions. Mentors help young people make better life decisions.
Check out the following youth/mentor programs in town and get involved: Family Focus, Fellowship of African American Men, McGaw YMCA, Youth Organizations Umbrella (Y.O.U.), Big Brothers/ Big Sisters, faith-based organizations such as churches and houses of worship, Connections, Curt’s Cafe, ETHS PTSA, ETHS Boosters and District 65 PTAs.