Youth workers need funding to end violence

With Boston’s violence epidemic, young people are hurt, angry and frustrated. We are advocating for a youth voice in decisions and more youth opportunities in order to save lives this year. Youths and youth workers, numbering nearly 150, screamed for $8 million more in funding in Downtown Boston before entering the Boston Youth Fund city council hearing on May 24.

There, we shared stories of lost loved ones. But we shouldn’t have to march to get the city to take action. Does it take 74 homicides to do something?

As young people in United Youth and Youth Workers of Boston (UYYWB) we know when people die it’s not just another number. One of us testified: “You would think losing eight friends would be the worst part of my life, but it’s not. The worst part of my life is that violence is normal to me now. I actually expect my friends to die.”

As youth workers in UYYWB, we are tired of seeing fear and going to funerals. We want to see sparks of potential in young people. It hurts to see under funding of solutions we know will work. It hurts to see young peoples’ solutions disregarded.

We have come together as youths and youth workers from more than 100 organizations—including Beantown Society, Youth Community Organizers of Hyde Square Task Force, Teen Mita of South Street Development, Urban Reps of Martha Eliot Health Center, YPACT, and others in Jamaica Plain—to advocate for increased funding. This year, UYYWB is calling for an additional $4.5 million for year-round and summer jobs; $2 million for grants for youth organizations; and $1.5 million for a new total of 50 streetworkers starting at $35,000.

Jobs, programs, and streetworkers: these solutions aren’t complicated.

Mayor Thomas Menino has announced $300,000 more for summer jobs, $300,000 in grants, and four new streetworkers – all positive steps.

When we ask for more officials say there is no money. Yet money is added every year; the question is, where? City funding for youth jobs dropped from $8.7 to $4.1 million over 6 years, cutting 1,972 jobs while the teenage population increased by 2,500. Police spending increased from $217 to $260 million.

We need the mayor and City Council to stand with us and make youth a priority in this year’s city budget. Together, we can be proud to live in a city that invests in year-round jobs and expanded summer jobs, and that invests in the organizations and streetworkers that reach young people.

At the May 24 budget hearing we spoke for those who have died. We don’t want to do so again. We don’t want to constantly wonder, “Who’s next?” Please help us stop the violence this year. Don’t wait ‘til we’re dead.

Carlos Moreno and Shauna Rigaud

Carlos Moreno is a senior at West Roxbury High School and a resident of Dorchester. Shauna Rigaud is a youth worker in the South End who has worked in youth organizations since she was 13. They serve on the leadership team of the UYYWB.

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