Youth Crime and Urban Policy: A View from the Inner City

By Robert L. Woodson | Go to book overview

El Centro del Pueblo

ROSE NIDIFFER AND ROBERT AGUAYO

ROSE NIDIFFER: We are located in Echo Park, which is on the west side of Los Angeles. El Centro del Pueblo developed from the Echo Park diversion project, begun in 1971 to provide an alternative to incarceration for first- and second-time offenders. Located in the inner city, the concept of the Echo Park diversion program was a prison without walls. The program was funded by the Office of Criminal Justice Planning in the amount of $150,000 anually. But the line staff, the youth counselors, refused to cooperate with the local law enforcement office by turning over confidential client information, so the program lost its funding in 1976. From this program grew El Centro del Pueblo. The community residents got together and decided to continue services for the people in the community. The twelve staff members stayed on and did fund- raising and volunteer work to keep the center open. For two years, we operated without any formal funding. Later we joined a coalition to provide a community anticrime program funded through the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA). Now we receive a grant of $30,000 a year.

We are still in the inner city, still in the same location, but we've grown to encompass a variety of services. The main thrust, however, has continued to be juvenile delinquency prevention and alternatives for hard-to-reach youth. Some of the services that we provide are emergency assistance, delinquency prevention through recreational therapy, arts and crafts, ethnic and cultural pride classes, and trips and outings for our youth and also our younger children from eight to thirteen years old. We have summer youth employment opportunities for up to 150 economically disadvantaged youths from the ages of fourteen to twenty- one. We provide information, referral, and advocacy; we take community surveys to find out what the real needs of the community are, so the people have some input into our program. We do gang crisis intervention, gang truce meetings, gang and youth sensitivity training for the Los Angeles Unified School District and other agencies. Last year, we were able to serve over 3,000 youths, families, and senior

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