Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica City Council to Vote on Funding for Youth Job Training Program
By Jason Islas
October 8, 2013 -- The City Council Tuesday could fund the City's first new program to help troubled youth in the wake of a spree of shootings in Santa Monica last summer that left seven dead.
Venice-based nonprofit St. Joseph Center will team up with Hospitality Training Academy (HTA) to run a vocational training program out of Virginia Avenue Park's Teen Center if the Council approves the $239,688 needed to fund the initiative.
Designed to target 16 to 24-year-olds who are out of school and struggling to find work, the program is a result of a realignment of the City's social services which officials hope will address the fundamental causes of youth violence.
The realignment followed a series of traumatic shootings in Santa Monica, including the June 7 rampage by 24-year-old Pico Neighborhood resident John Zawahri that left six dead. ("Recent Spate of Shootings Break Long Peace in Santa Monica," June 12)
“In light of these events and in an effort to support the community, staff recommended the acceleration and advancement of the ... program,” staff said.
The program, if the Council votes to fund it, will help youth find jobs in the hospitality and service industries.
The idea, City officials said, is to help them find careers with promise.
Adine Forman, the executive director of HTA, told The Lookout in August that her nonprofit steers participants away from deadend jobs in fast food. Instead, HTA is about building a skill set that participants can use to find a career, she said.
City officials hope that, if the Council funds the program, about 50 teens and young adults who might otherwise have struggled to find work in a slowly-recovering job market will get the leg up they need.
And by working with St. John's Center, a nonprofit that provides support to needy families, the City hopes that participants will have access to mental health services and other programs offered by the nonprofit.
Staff chose St. John's Center over local nonprofit Pico Youth and Family Center (PYFC) because the Venice-based nonprofit “has a more successful track record of moving forward innovative, high profile direct service initiatives.”
While there is no mention of it in the official report, PYFC's administration has had a rocky relationship with City Hall over the course of its 13 years. ("Youth Center Leader and Santa Monica Staff Have Long History of Tense Relations," January 7)
Most recently, the nonprofit came under fire -- and nearly lost its $300,000 annual City grant -- after officials said they found financial irregularities in the organization's bookkeeping.
Though PYFC held onto most of its grant, the City slashed it by about $50,000, reinvesting the money into other programs like the jobs training program.
According to the staff report, the new job training initiative is ready to go as soon as Council approves funding.
Both St. John's Center and HTA have identified the initial 50 participants, staff said, and they “have identified staff to begin outreach to and engagement with these potential participants.”
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