YOU receives $500,000 for street outreach program

Jia You, Reporter

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded Evanston nonprofit Youth Organizations Umbrella a $500,000 grant that will fund a street outreach program in the city.

YOU Executive Director Seth Green announced the news with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) at a community anti-violence rally Monday night. The department will award $166,500 to YOU annually in the next three years to fund youth outreach programs, especially those targeting the 18-26 age group, Schakowsky told The Daily on Wednesday.

“It appears that there is a large gap between the services available for at-risk teens and getting them into those programs,” Schakowsky said in an email. “Many programs end at age 18, leaving very vulnerable young people without the opportunities and support they need at a critical point in their lives. This grant will fill the gap.”

As the lead organization on the application, YOU will share the grant with the the city, Youth Job Center and YWCA Evanston/Northshore to create a coordinated street outreach program that connects at-risk youth with existing educational and employment programs, Green said.

“Evanston is a place where we have a rich amount of resources,” Green said. “The challenge is youth don’t know how to navigate through them.”

To accomplish this goal, the city will use the grant to hire a part-time street outreach worker who can help disconnected youth find employment, housing and other social services, said Kevin Brown, director of Evanston’s Youth and Young Adult Division. The city currently employs a full-time street outreach worker, but this single staff member cannot meet the demand of all Evanston youth, Brown said.

“The outreach workers are necessary to reach a particular demographic group, the 18-to-26-year-olds,” he said. “These are young adults who are disengaged, and many are unemployed and not fully engaged in opportunities that will help them be better developed citizens.”

The grant will also allow the city to expand its youth engagement initiatives, such as the Building Career Pathways to Sustainable Employment program. Brown said the grant will also provide homeless and runaway youth with mentorship, education and employment opportunities.

Green said he envisions more Evanston youth will have jobs by the end of the three years.

“We’d like to see hundreds of youth who were on the street connected to jobs,” he said. “That would be the completion of our vision.”

Although Northwestern was not formally listed as a partner, Green said he expects NU community members to contribute as volunteers, mentors and researchers.

Evanston resident My Huynh said she thinks the program will help stop street violence in Evanston as long as the money is properly managed.

“If you have kids who are active in some kind of activity, there will be more monitoring of the kids and … they will have friends around to support them,” she said.