“My City, Your City, Our City” violence prevention program receives ARPA funds for expansion


Daily file photo by Angeli Mittal

The Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. City Council voted Monday to fund the expansion of an initiative that supports youth and family violence prevention.

Maia Spoto, Audience Engagement Editor

Content warning: This story contains mentions of gun violence.

City Council voted unanimously Monday to fund the expansion of an initiative that supports youth and family violence prevention. 

$552,500 in American Rescue Plan Act funds will expand Evanston’s “My City, Your City, Our City” program, which started in 2021 to address the youth isolation that contributes to gun violence. The program supports the families of its participants. The expansion will increase the age range of its clients from between 14 and 24 years old to between 11 and 30 years old, with plans for a workforce development program to appear before the council in April.

Five people between the ages of 14 and 24 were wounded by gun violence in Evanston last year and four were fatally shot, according to Evanston Police Department. In December, guns were found in two Evanston Township High School students’ backpacks, causing a nearly three-hour lockdown

Funds allocated Monday will support several initiatives, including hiring an additional outreach worker and a school liaison. They will financially support participants with vocational training and civic engagement. Funds will also add two more annual “nonviolence camps” to the city, support 7 to 10 new block clubs, and pay for staffing, food and supplies for after-school drop-in locations at Robert Crown Community Center and the Gibbs-Morrison Cultural Center. 

The approved plan holds $315,000 back from the original $867,500 plan floated at a Dec. 20 special City Council meeting. Those funds would have supported youth internships and job readiness training as part of a youth and young adult workforce development program. 

The program was held for revision to include recommendations from the city’s Reimagining Public Safety Committee, which called for the creation of an evidence-based and trauma-informed pilot. 

“Those recommendations will not go on deaf ears,” said Community Services Manager Audrey Thompson, who presented the memo to the council. “We will take those and use them to create a task force and come back in April with a program specifically for Evanston.” 

Since its revision between the December meeting and Monday’s meeting, the plan now prioritizes recruiting 50 people immediately impacted by gun violence. It aims to address participants’ specific needs by providing services such as housing and trauma recovery programming alongside workforce development to ultimately place them in jobs. 

The task force, which comprises the RPSC, city staff and others, will root the plan in current local and national best practices for reducing violence through community-based efforts. City staff will request funding for the workforce development program at an April City Council meeting. 

“The types of services that are needed for 28, 29-year-olds are very different … as individuals, and as families,” RPSC member and Northwestern sociology Prof. Andrew Papachristos said. “We already started having great conversations. We hope eventually that the city will go back and revisit the needs around victim services and trauma-informed victim services.” 

The pandemic relief funding that underpins the expansion of “My City, Your City, Our City” is a one-time add that will not be available for next year’s budget.

“We’ve got ARPA money to get this going this year,” Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) said. “We will be challenged to find sources of funding for this ongoing basis, and I’m happy to meet that challenge, along with my colleagues on the council.” 

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Twitter: @maia_spoto

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