Wednesday’s workshop for the Youth Services Committee of the New Haven Board of Aldermen featured a different cast of characters than most Board meetings, as community members debated solutions to youth violence in the city.
A group of concerned parents, community members and New Haven officials gathered in Lincoln-Bassett School on Bassett Street to discuss plans to provide the city’s youth with safe after-school resources in an effort to reduce violence. The 16 aldermen and audience members discussed plans to establish a program through which students in the New Haven area could have access to various activities and a safe place with a hired supervisor.
“I am fascinated by this. My sense is that there is funding for this,” said Ward 7 Alderwoman and chair of the youth services committee Frances “Bitsie” Clark during the meeting. Clark said she thought the project could receive between $35,000 and $50,000 in funding from the city and state governments, adding that she wanted to use her resources on the Board to help the initiative before her term as Youth Chairman was over.
Yet, before any funding can be obtained, Clark said a grant proposal needed to be written to establish this as a pilot project.
“We need all the resources we can get,” said Ward 19 Alderman Alfreda Edwards, who represents Newhallville and participates in the tentatively named “Pampering with a Purpose” — a women’s group trying to push the project through.
A major concern among those in attendance was the neighborhood rivalries in the Elm City. Jeffie Frazier, a retired principal of Helene Grant Elementary School and member of “Pampering with a Purpose” said violence was exacerbated when kids were asked to cross neighborhood boundaries to access a library.
“We have to bring our kids to the table. They have a lot to say and what they ask for would not cost a lot of money,” she said. “We talk about violence I know nothing more violent than not teaching our children.”
Aside from trying to cement plans to receive funding for this after-school initiative, the group also talked about current programs that could be taken advantage of if there was proper transportation.
The swimming lessons offered in Payne Whitney, the computers in the public library and the various programs Yale University offers to the New Haven youth, Frazier said, provide opportunities for safe environments for students. “The most beautiful thing” about these downtown locations, she added, is their proximity to the police headquarters on Union Avenue.