February 11, 2014 > Violence prevention program targets at-risk youth
Violence prevention program targets at-risk youth
Submitted By Frank Addiego
In response to a growing threat of gang violence in Union City, the Human Relations Committee (HRC) created the Youth Violence Prevention and Intervention Program (YVPIP) in 2007 to reach out to at-risk teenagers with counseling and employment opportunities. Its efforts received funding from tax dollars provided by Measure UU beginning in 2009, which will sunset in 2017.
Since the program was first conceived, the number of violent crimes and weapons incidents by offenders age 14-24 has fallen from 202 in 2008 to 105 in 2013; no homicides among youthful offenders in 2012.
The job of spreading the word about the program falls upon the street outreach team. ÒBasically, the street outreach team engages youth in their environment,Ó said outreach worker John Cabrera, ÒWe literally go into the areas where they hang out and where drug deals go down.Ó According to Cabrera, the team offers employment as an incentive to become involved in their program.
When a client is ready to use the program, the case management team steps in. ÒMy job is to let them know what resources are available,Ó said Sergio Abundis of the case management team, who tries to work with clients on clothes and other necessities for job interviews. ÒWhen I meet with them, I just focus on why they came to see us.Ó According to Abundis, the program managed to expand employment for at-risk youth even during the recent economic downturn.
YVPIP deals with many other aspects of at-risk youth. According to Abundis, when a medical emergency involves a client, outreach is there for them. ÒOutreach usually goes to the E.R. to calm the nerves of the family,Ó he said.
At a February 5th meeting of HRC, the success of a client whom they helped secure a job at a firm doing much of the construction on the cityÕs BART station was discussed. The clientÕs wages increased substantially and he said during his graduation from the program that it was the first legal job he ever held.
At the same meeting, members discussed strategies for creating community awareness and a replacement for Measure UU. ÒOur target audience is the voters,Ó said Abundis. ÒWhen you talk to tax payers, theyÕre thinking, Ôhow much am I paying?Õ how much does this add to my property values?Õ and, Ôwhy should I do this?ÕÓ
The Youth Violence Prevention and Intervention Advisory Committee meets the first Wednesday of every other month, and is scheduled for March 5, 2014 at the Ruggieri Senior Center, 33997 Alvarado-Niles Road. For more information, contact Patricia Abadesco at PatriciaA@ci.union-city.ca.us.