The Portland City Council voted to authorize $700,000 in grants to community organizations providing activities for at-risk youth to reduce gang violence.
If approved, the grants will be offered to the Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization - Africa House, Latino Network, Native American Youth and Family Center, the Boys & Girls Club of Portland Metropolitan Area, Self Enhancement, Inc., and REAP, Inc.
“Last year we had more than 12,000 kids using free access to our community centers and to our teen programming, so obviously there was and is a great need out there in the community,” Mayor Charlie Hales told the council.
The funds will be allocated over two years, and will fund socializing activities for youth outside of school and during the summer. The funds are part of Mayor Charlie Hales’ ongoing $2 million Community Centers Initiative and will be dispersed through Portland Parks & Recreation department.
Parks and Recreation department manager, commissioner Amanda Fritz likened these summer activities to preventive medicine that suppresses youth violence.
“Summer is a crucial time to keep the youth engaged in constructive activities,” Fritz said.
According to the Portland Police Bureau, there were 183 gang-related shootings in 2015 and officials believe 2016 is on track to have even more incidences of violence.
The summer free access program is also getting a modern makeover with a city-sponsored smartphone app. Mayor Hales, Portland Parks & Recreation and the tech firm iUrban Teen have launched the “I Am A #ForceOf” cellphone app which connects teens to these free drop-in events at community centers.
A list of free teen activities can be found at http://teenforce.meteorapp.com/.
The council unanimously passed the measure with no debate. As Mayor Hales finished his remarks, he encouraged people to visit their local community centers.
“I urge everybody to spend a little time in a community center this summer and just see what’s going on. It’s pretty magical,” Hales said.