Evanston’s proposed 2015 budget calls for increased spending to help troubled youths and young adults get their lives on the right track.
Spending on Youth and Young Adult programs, which rose during the current fiscal year, will increase again next year — to $836,000 — a rise of 24 percent from its level in 2013.
The bulk of the extra funds are going to increase the number of outreach workers. The unit’s overall staffing will rise from 4.9 full-time-equivalent employees this year to 5.9 next year — and, including part-time employees, the number of people working in the unit will increase from eight to 11.
Parks, Recreation and Community Services Director Joe McRae says that over the past three years the group has worked with 416 clients between the ages of 18 and 26.
So far 78 percent of the clients have been men and only 1 percent are Hispanic, and McRae says the staffing increase for 2015 is intended to reach out to provide services to more women and Hispanics.
Asked by aldermen to identify how big the pool is of young adults who need to be helped, McRae fell back on national data that suggests 17 percent of young people between the ages of 16 and 24 are neither in school nor working — and therefore are considered to be “disconnected youth” or, more optimistically, “opportunity youth” for whom positive interventions might turn their lives around.
But determining the relevant number for Evanston isn’t as simple as multiplying the number of people here in that age group by 17 percent.
That influx is only partially offset by the departure of Evanston high school graduates to colleges in other parts of the country.
And all those arriving college students are by definition in school and therefore not part of the “opportunity youth” pool.
If we look instead at the number of 10 to 14 year olds in Evanston, we see that there are just over 800 in each year’s cohort who in subsequent years will move into the target demographic. That suggests that an appropriate baseline for calculating Evanston’s disconnected youth pool is about 800 times the number of years in the age span to be included in the definition.
So, when the city defines its target young adult age group as those 18 to 26, it suggests that nine times 800, or 7,200 is the size of the pool. And applying the national average of 17 percent “opportunity youth” we’d get an estimate of 1,224 “opportunity youth” in Evanston.
Some other factors suggest that the percentage of young adults who need more opportunity here might be somewhat lower than the national average. Our high school graduation and college readiness rates are somewhat higher than average. And our jobless rate is somewhat lower than average.
But even making those adjustments, it would appear that a substantial number of prospects are not yet being reached by the program.