INDIANAPOLIS — City-County councilors tonight will learn details of Mayor Joe Hogsett’s plans to spend $15 million in federal funds on community anti-violence programs in 2022.
For several years Hogsett’s community violence grant total topped out at about $3 million annually.
“The dollars that we are going to be able to see over the next three years, I believe we’re gonna be able to put a huge dent into the violence that is already occurring,” said Lauren Rodriguez, Director of the Office of Public Health and Safety, “but also make sure that we’re setting up ways that the violence doesn’t have to occur in the future.”
While the mayor is proposing millions for more violence interrupters and support of homeless persons, significant investments will be made into programs that take a more long-term approach to curbing the cycle of violence.
At the City Life Wheels Academy on East Washington Street, more than sixty young people will learn how to fix cars this year.
“This is a learning lab for life. This is what I really consider this place to be, not just working on cars, but they’re learning critical skills they need to grow up into any career,” said Nate Hershey of Central Indiana Youth for Christ which received $115,000 in a city grant last December. “We say to all our youth, ‘You start with a ton of skills you just don’t know you have yet, and you don’t know how to use them yet.’”
Mentors work side-by-side with the students on donated and family cars to get the vehicles and their lives up and running again.
“Basically, I was one of the kids who wasn’t doing so great in his life, so I started with a mentor program called Stop the Violence,” said Deanthony Patterson who came into the program as a 16-year-old slipping into trouble in 2017. “Everything is better since I came here. My life is better. I feel better about myself. I finally got a family that makes me feel better.”
Deanthony was about to pop the hood on a church van to replace a transmission line.
“It’s exciting because we got cars we been working on for so long and when we finally get them running and finally get them out of here and figure out how much the price went up from what it was originally, we’re just like, we did this. Nobody else. Like we did this,” he said.
“If you can fix a car you can fix a life, like anything can happen here. This is literally the place where miracles can happen.”
Hershey said some of his students are sent to City Life Wheels by a juvenile court judge.
“We’ve had many students from the juvenile system, many of them are court-ordered to be here or with a parole officer, so sometimes a parole officer will actually come with their student and partake in all of the stuff that we do so they’re working on cars with their parole officers so that is pretty cool.”
The Hogsett administration intends to spend more money on long term efforts to change behaviors and environments for young people, at-risk residents and families while emphasizing immediate violence intervention.
“I’ve been in communication with community organizers who are in touch with youth a lot trying to provide some extra after school areas for kids to go to provide them a safe place and not only a safe place to play sports but also get assistance in schoolwork, maybe mental health services, making sure that we have those in communities all over Indianapolis,” said Rodriguez. “I’ve met tons of community members that do grassroots community organization efforts around youth and they talk about how all those youth keep coming back, and if we know that those youth are coming back, they’re not outside committing crimes.”
Pending Council passage of the mayor’s budget, Rodriguez predicts the funding could make its way to community groups by the first of the year.