Audrey Thompson.

Evanston’s City Council is scheduled Monday to consider spending $867,500 of its federal American Rescue Plan Act funding for a collection of programs aimed at reducing youth violence.

The proposal from Community Services Manager Audrey Thompson follows Thursday’s lockdown of Evanston Township High School after two guns were discovered at the school and the shooting on Green Bay Road on Nov. 28 that left one teenager dead and four others wounded.

In a memo to council members, Thompson says the city has experienced an increase in youth violence during the COVID-19 pandemic and the the ARPA program authorizes using its funds for “evidence-based community violence intervention programs.”

Thompson’s proposal calls for:

  • Adding sixth full-time youth outreach worker to the city’s staff at an annual cost of $100,000.
  • Adding a variety of civic responsibility and engagement programs for youth and their parents at a cost of $82,500.
  • Adding workforce development programs at a cost of $315,000 to encourage city departments and private employers to hire youths in need of jobs and provide job readiness training.
  • Creating alternative recreation programs including after school programs at city recreation centers and forming several new block clubs around the city at a cost of $200,000.

The city currently operates a variety of programs targeted to disengaged youth to attempt to redirect them to productive careers and avoid participating in violent and criminal behavior.

Thompson says she’s working with 15 organizations and agencies to implement various aspects of the program and hopes to establish additional partnerships in the future.

Mayor Daniel Biss, in a newsletter today, blamed the ready availability of guns, stress from the pandemic and ugly rumors on social media for the increase in violence. He urged residents to “be kind to those around you” and “model peaceful behavior” as ways to address the situation.

Biss did not suggest restoring more positions eliminated from the city’s police department over the course of the pandemic. His Reimagining Public Safety Committee has yet to make specific recommendations for alternative strategies to address crime in the city.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.