INDIANAPOLIS — Nearly a year ago, during his 2022 budget address to the City County Council, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced the City would spend $15 million of its American Rescue Plan Act funds from Washington on community anti-violence grants.

Today, already past the halfway point for the year, the mayor unveiled $4.3 million in renamed Elevation Grants.

“To add these additional 31 grantees will, I think, go a long way and ultimately I look for progress each and every day and I look for progress at the end of every month and we measure that progress by the overall level of gun violence the city experiences compared to previous years,” said Hogsett. “We just had a very difficult weekend over the course of the Fourth of July but progress continues to be made in terms of the overall reduction in the levels of gun violence that Indianapolis has experienced.”

This year, homicides are down ten percent and non-fatal shooting incidents are off 11 percent compared to last year at this time.

In late April the number of non-fatal shooting incidents in Indianapolis was down nearly 20% compared to 2021, an indication that the decline from a year ago has slumped in the summer months.

“We will see a reduction, a meaningful reduction of gun violence and more peace throughout neighborhoods in our community, when the community is involved,” said Hogsett, “when we are coming together as one to work together to eradicate the challenges.”

Freewheelin’ Community Bikes received nearly $61,000 to continue its youth camp and employment programs.

“We provide basic bike mechanic courses, advanced bike mechanic courses, non-school time, summer camps and fall break programming as well as a youth employment training program,” said Executive Director LaNisha Clark.

Destiney Wilson, 17, admitted she doesn’t know much about bikes but she’s learning how to help customers and monitor the care of the youngsters in the summer camp program.

“Back there we have parents who need to talk to people, we need to be accountable for each child to make sure everything’s going great so lots of soft skills,” she said.

“It keeps kids out of the house and not only out of the house but out of trouble. I’m not talking so much about the younger kids in the camp. I’m talking about the kids my age because in this neighborhood its definitely rough. A lot of kids are close to dropping out or doing things they shouldn’t be doing,” she said.

“I feel like this employment program, specifically the apprenticeship, it’s really kept me out of the house, it’s kept me on track. I feel like I have a purpose, like I’m helping people, I’m not sitting at home wondering, ’What can I do to get money?’”

Youngsters from the Mackida Loveal & Trip Mentoring Outreach Center were loading up a trailer with supplies for this Saturday’s Youth Expo at 4160 North Keystone Avenue.

Executive Director Lashauna Triplett said during the school year she works with youngsters who have been referred from Marion County’s Juvenile Justice system or are at risk of not finishing high school

“Assisting them and preventing them from going into the system, providing academic support, life skills, drug counseling and especially with expulsions where our scholars are being expended or expelled, they’re coming to our day reporting program to be able to get academic support and stay on track for graduation,” said Triplett. “We have not had a death among our youth, our recidivism rate is very low, we’re at like 98% so we only have a two percent of our youth who have reoffended.”

MLT received a $160,000 grant to expand its Bridging the Gap program to a wider range of Brightwood Martindale neighbors.

“We provide wrap around supports for our families which include academics, mental health, filling in the food gap, just an array of services to keep our families thriving,” she said. “Mental health resources, rental assistance, we go out to make sure we supply food to fill in the food gap because 46218 area is a food desert, so, food insecurities, household supplies, gun safety locks, anything that will help strengthen our community and help bring down crime.

“This grant allows us to help with drivers license reinstatement,” she said. “We’ll be able to help reinstate drivers license, pay those fees, legal fees and even insurance up to six months to a year.

“As we begin to build a sense and pride in our community, then we’re hopeful with our model that crime will begin to reduce.”

Wilson is set to begin her senior year at Crispus Attucks High School, several miles away from her Brightwood Martindale home and friends not taking advantage of the summer opportunities that community-based anti-violence programs funded by the City provide.

“I feel like a lot of times you’re a product of your environment but also you have control over you, like, I grew up here, too, and I could be out there doing what they’re doing and be out there doing worse but I’m not,” she said. “If you could be here where I am and see how happy these kids are and be a part of what we’re doing and how happy I am to be a part of what we’re doing, you would realize…honestly…you might want to pay extra taxes. I know would…kind of.”

The City has committed to spending $15 million on Elevation Grants in 2023 and 2024 with the intention of vetting and supporting small community organizations that will eventually secure their own non-public funding.

Grants writing workshops for applicants for the remaining $10.7 million of this year’s funding will be held Thursday and July 14 with the deadline to apply by noon on August 1.

Learn more and apply here