Funds to aid needy youths

Large federal grant to provide services for poor in Baltimore

February 20, 2000|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

Youths in 33 poor Baltimore neighborhoods will have a central place to go for help with education, drug and pregnancy counseling, parental-skills support and job training under a program to be established with $44 million in federal grant money.

President Clinton, during his weekly radio address yesterday, announced $223 million in grants to provide services for up to 44,000 poor young people across the country.

"This will provide a lifeline of opportunity to any young person willing to work for a better future," Clinton said.

Baltimore received $11 million for the first year, as much as any city received, including Los Angeles, Detroit and Houston.

Thirty-six jurisdictions were chosen from 180 applicants to receive the grant money, said Peter Hamm, a U.S. Department of Labor spokesman.

The grants were awarded based on need, strength of existing programs and the probability that after five years the programs would be able to pay for themselves through partnerships with businesses, Hamm said.

"We looked for strong connections to the business community and employers who were lined up saying that they would hire these kids," Hamm said.

Baltimore partners in the program include Johns Hopkins, Mercy and Sinai hospitals, Baltimore Development Corp., Baltimore City Community College, the city Housing Authority and the Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice.

"There is a very strong need for this [in Baltimore]," Hamm said. "And a strong team of people there, too."

The city's share of the grant money is expected to help 2,400 youths in the first year of the five-year grant. The 33 neighborhoods affected include Sandtown-Winchester and Harlem Park in West Baltimore, Pigtown in Southwest Baltimore and neighborhoods around Johns Hopkins Hospital on the east side.

Comprehensive approach

"The thing that is different about this, compared to other services, is that it will be a comprehensive youth-services division," said Gail Waller, spokeswoman for the city Office of Employment Development. "They can walk in the door and be electronically linked to anything that they need."

Young people will have access to day care for their children while they attend school, job training, internships or tutoring, or while they obtain medical and health services, Waller said.

According to census data, six out of 10 children in the 33 neighborhoods are raised in families whose median annual income is $14,516, compared with a citywide median income of $24,045.

Unemployment in the targeted communities is 35 percent to 40 percent, according to census data, and school dropout and teen pregnancy rates also are high.

The grants will emphasize placing young people in jobs, along with efforts to keep them in school, encourage enrollment in college and provide work experience in community projects.

Planned locations

Officials plan to open full-service Youth Opportunity Community Centers at 1510 W. Lafayette St. in West Baltimore and at the Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition, 1200 N. Wolfe St., Waller said.

Four satellite offices will be opened, two on the east side, at 301 N. Gay St. and 232 N. Broadway; and two on the west side, at 2120 W. North Ave. and 906 Washington Blvd. Officials expect the centers to be operating in about six months, Waller said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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