AURORA, Colo. – On Monday, Aurora’s City Council voted against increasing funding for the city’s youth violence prevention program with a 6-4 vote.
The decision comes after several months of escalating youth violence.
“There's a lot that's been done already, but with the funding that wasn't approved, what we are not able to do is fund community-based organization,” said Christina Amparan, manager of the Youth Violence Prevention Program.
Amparan presented the funding proposal to city council on Monday and said currently, the program provides mentorship opportunities, events just for teens and other tools for at-risk youth.
But Amparan says some city council members may not understand how the program operates.
“We're in a position where we're not just trying to develop a program," she said. "We're also in the process of educating our internal stakeholders and external stakeholders."
After learning the funding increase was voted down, concerned Aurora mother Chantae Cowan says she is worried that Aurora teens won’t have essential resources.
“I’m really upset, and I’m really concerned,” Cowan said. “We have people in the community who are willing to provide those spaces, people in the community who are willing to give these teenagers and youth tools to heal through some of these things that they’re going through, to help them not turn to violence right away, and to deprive the funding is really saying no to the youth.”
During city council’s funding proposal discussion, Councilmember Danielle Jurinsky, who voted against the increase, questioned the effectiveness of some of the programming.
“I’m a hard sell that these gang members are going to yoga or finding out when the next poet is going to be speaking,” Jurinsky said.
Cowan says not all youth violence is gang related, and on the surface, activities like yoga and poetry may not seem effective, but they can be.
“If you know what yoga does, and if you know the practice of yoga, and if you know the ritual of yoga, you know that it calms your body," Cowan said. You know that it calms your mind. You know that if you have those tools, you won't turn to anger."
Aurora Mayor Pro-Tem Francoise Bergan also voted against the funding and questioned if the program is losing focus.
“I think maybe we’ve moved away from the initial purpose of the program,” he said.
Bergan says some of the elements included in the funding proposal, like hospital/mental health counselors and coat drives, can be addressed in other ways.
“Not to say that those are not good programs, but for example, coat drives and those types of programs, those should be done for free,” Bergan said. “We only have $1.1 million allocated to this program. So, we have to be really careful to make sure that we use those funds effectively for the right results...some of those things are not really in the purview of city council government, those are more county services or mental health services.”
Bergan says councilmembers asked Amparan to present a new funding proposal that addresses some of the councilmembers' concerns within the next few weeks.