In the wake of a “massive increase” in youth outreach programs that focus on violence prevention, wraparound services and the like, Evanston City Manager Luke Stowe is asking the City Council to approve funding for the Parks and Recreation Department to hire another full-time outreach worker.
Council members will have to vote on Stowe’s request during their meeting on Monday night, May 22. Evanston has leftover funds for the new position because two other jobs in workforce development included in this year’s budget were not filled until recently, according to a memo from Stowe to the council on page 357 of the May 22 meeting packet.
In 2021, the city used American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to create the My City, Your City, Our City Initiative. The program, run through Evanston’s Youth Engagement Division, hosts “safe summer” programming like block parties, gun violence prevention workshops and community center events around the city for young people.
“Since then, there has been a massive increase in programming to drop-in centers (up to seven days per week), collaborations with District 65 to conduct group sessions three times per week, traditional outreach services, not to mention year-round events for youth and families,” Stowe wrote. “For example, as of April 30, 2023, the Division has seen a 40% increase in services, including client referrals, requests for violence interruption services, wraparound meetings, restorative justice circles and community engagement plans.”
Stowe’s request for another youth outreach worker comes a little more than a month after the Clark Street Beach shooting in which 18-year-old Jacquis Irby was killed, and two of his younger brothers were injured. Before that, Evanston had seen a string of shootings in summer 2022, including one that left a 13-year-old girl paralyzed. The My City, Your City, Our City Initiative, according to the city’s website, is designed “to reduce youth violence” through “enrichment activities this summer specifically tailored for high school youth.”
Originally, the Youth Engagement Division had planned to use city funds for some temporary, part-time outreach positions, but Stowe said those jobs have been “difficult to fill.”
“Due to the increase in requests for outreach services, specifically, there is a need to increase the footprint of outreach workers across the City,” Stowe said in the council memo. “Approval of this permanent outreach worker will ensure that the division can continue to meet the increased demand for outreach services.”