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Denver microgrants to help more than 1,000 youth, families in youth violence prevention amid pandemic

Denver - The City and County of Denver will award 17 organizations with microgrant funding to support intervention and prevention programs that provide direct services to Denver’s youth and their families.  The aid comes after Mayor Michael B. Hancock convened the Youth Violence Prevention Action Table (YVPAT) in 2019 to address increasing concerns about youth violence during the COVID-19 crisis.

“These community organizations are critical in keeping our neighborhoods safe for everyone,” Mayor Hancock said.  “The pandemic has made their work even more difficult.  Without this support, some of these programs would have faced an uncertain future during the summer months when the need for youth engagement is highest, especially now.”

The City dedicated $125,000 to the microgrant funding.  The grantees primarily serve young people in the Southwest, North, and Northeast portions of Denver, but some provide citywide services.

“We are providing them hope when, for them, it appears there may not be any hope,” Joel Hodge, founder of the Struggle of Love Foundation (SOL) said.  SOL is one of the 17 grantees and offers alternatives to those with limited opportunities that may not qualify for any other community-based assistance programs and engages at-risk youth.  The microgrant funding will allow SOL to maintain its summer youth program, which includes mentoring and tutoring, while simultaneously dedicating existing funds to other emergent needs.

“Right now, one of the biggest needs Struggle of Love is meeting is food security; we had 50 cars at the food bank [in one day].  It is providing hope for these families and these communities.  We are also providing volunteer opportunities for the youth at the food bank, which is giving them the opportunity to give back to their community and it is keeping them off the street,” he said.

A young man who was set to start working with SOL last Monday died in a homicide the weekend before.

Under the direction of Denver Public Safety Youth Programs, the City is releasing the microgrants in partnership with Denver Public Schools (DPS), which aims to provide additional funding to schools to enhance and expand school-based services.

“We are glad to partner with DPS on this effort,” said Murphy Robinson, Executive Director of Public Safety. “These microgrants allow those working in the community the opportunity to provide additional support and resources to Denver’s young people during these uncertain times.”

The YVPAT is following a public health approach to addressing youth violence and will submit a final report with a detailed set of deliverables and recommended strategies to Mayor Hancock and City Council by the end of 2020.  An array of community and city leaders, and youth, have held a series of workshops and meetings over the last six months to identify immediate, actionable items needed to support youth violence prevention efforts.

Most recently, the YVPAT began seeking applications from a diverse group of self-motivated youth, who are between the ages of 16 and 20, who are interested in earning $125 every two weeks to participate in a Youth Advisory Council (YAC). The YAC will serve a critical role on the YVPAT.  It will meet weekly to research and discuss objectives, desired outcomes, public health approaches to addressing youth violence, evidence-based models of prevention, best practices, community partner leveraging, and many other factors to eventually form and present their own informed, educated advice and recommendations on the comprehensive, strategic youth violence prevention plan.