Two months ago, when violence on Hartford streets spiked to unbearable levels, members of the city's legislative delegation recommended increasing the accountability for community programs as a way to stop the bloodshed.
All too often, the lawmakers explained, grass roots organizations that seek to help youth mean well, but lack the sophistication to secure the resources they need to carry out their mission. An example of what they were talking about is the Saving Our Kids From The Streets program run by the Rev. Patrice Smith.
The program engaged 25 teenagers from the Albany Avenue area in a three-week street cleaning project for which the youths were to be paid about $140 per week.
But the program never received the money to pay the participants. Apparently there was a communications breakdown between Ms. Smith and the city and federal officials who run Weed and Seed, the umbrella organization that was supposed to provide the money. Depending on whom you believe, either Ms. Smith never submitted the required written application for the funds and didn't qualify for the money anyway or Weed and Seed chose not to pay for the project after encouraging her to go ahead with it.
As a result, the teenagers and some of their parents staged sit-ins at the Albany Avenue police substation. What should have been a positive experience turned into a disappointment.
Save Our Kids From The Streets is not the first community program to find itself in such a bind. Ignorance or lack of experience in how to maneuver bureaucracy is more common than many local leaders would care to admit.
Fortunately, the teenagers in this case will not be penalized for the blunders of the adults. Contributions are pouring in from individuals and organizations that want to make certain the kids will be paid. The money will be funneled through the nonprofit Justice Education Center Inc. in West Hartford.
But in the future, well-meaning people who want to help youth at risk need to make certain they have the resources to do the job.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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