AURORA, Colo. — At an Aurora study session on Monday evening, councilmembers adopted the 2022 strategic plan for the Youth Violence Prevention Program and advanced a proposal for shelter options in safe outdoor spaces.
The Youth Violence Prevention Program has evolved during it's year of existence. Earlier this year, there was a presentation on its status, and councilmembers wanted more programs directed at intervention instead of prevention efforts.
Aurora voters eliminated funding for Aurora's Gang Prevention Program when they did away with the city's red light cameras. However, councilmembers want to bring portions of that program back and pivot toward more of a focus on gang violence.
The presentation included a list of types of violence that are most impacting the city, as ranked by youth, parents and community stakeholders. The list is as follows:
- Gang violence
- Domestic violence
- Gun violence
- Emotional abuse
- Child abuse or neglect
- Psychological abuse
- Sexual violence
- Human trafficking
- Other types of violence
Those with the Rose Andom Center said domestic violence affects everyone in a family and, subsequently, everyone in a community.
“When we talk about domestic violence, people often think about the adults in the relationship or the victim that's experiencing the abuse, and kids are very often the silent victims in that equation," said Margaret Abrams, the executive director of the Rose Andom Center. “Kids who witnessed domestic violence can be at greater risk of repeating some of those patterns, whether as an offender or being vulnerable to victimization as they grow into adult relationships. So, it's a critical issue. And the other thing is that kids are certainly vulnerable to being injured in households where there's domestic violence occurring as well.”
One of the biggest concerns for councilmembers is ensuring the program adequately tracks the results of the process. Those with the presentation said they will account for that through performance measures, in addition to an outside evaluator.
The strategic plan for the Youth Violence Prevention Program was advanced to the next regular council meeting on May 23.
Another agenda item related to the program was not so simple. Nearly 20 organizations are slated to receive funding from the city to help reduce youth violence. The organizations focused on intervention will split $400,000, while those related to prevention are set to get $100,000. The total $500,000 is city money coming from cannabis tax revenues.
Those organizations designed for intervention efforts will be voted on by council at their next meeting on Monday. The prevention agencies will wait until a study session on June 13. The reason for dividing the two groups is because councilmembers did not agree on how the money was being spent between the agencies. A survey will be conducted before Monday's regular meeting.
Also during Monday's study session was a plan for housing those experiencing homelessness, in the wake of the camping ban passing in late March.
The ban means the city cannot abate a site unless there is shelter available for the people living there. One of the proposed solutions was turning the Aurora Day Resource Center into a 24/7 shelter, but it would take around two years to do so.
Mayor Mike Coffman's office visited two locations with pallet homes on Monday as another option for housing those experiencing homelessness. The proposal related to the pallet homes would expand the number of homes at both sites, which are operated by the Salvation Army. The presentation said almost 50% of people who have been through the pallet home program have transitioned into the workforce afterward.
“The conversation was actually to maybe expand what we already have in place and use this as a model for other facilities," said Samuel James, the executive pastor of Restoration Christian Fellowship, which houses one of the pallet home sites. “If this is a successful pilot, which I think it will be, it would eliminate some of those persons now from outdoors where they actually have a place to reside in addition to the facility and the resources."
Some councilmembers consider the pallet homes a temporary solution and are skeptical about investing money into them. It would cost $500,000 to add 15 additional pallet homes to the two sites for a year. The funding would come from the American Rescue Plan Act.
The pallet home proposal will also go before council on Monday during their regular meeting.