St. Francis Neighborhood Center handles delinquency and victims the right way

Aterschool programs such as the ones at St. Francis Neighborhood Center make a difference. (Courtesy)

While researching my post last week on Baltimore’s curfew, I found some interesting facts on the mayor’s proposal to curb youth delinquency and victimization.

In early February, Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s called for the creation of curfew drop-off centers. The purposes is to access the needs of at-risk youths once curfew is violated. As I stated, I dont think that detaining kids because of their age and fining their parents is the right way to start a life-changing relationship between the city and underprivileged families.

Another issue is whether curfew centers will actually work. There aren’t the numbers to show that they do. The numbers that we do have demonstrate that youth delinquency primarily occurs after school and not after 11pm and that after school programs specifically address these issues.

Afterschool Programs have a history of making a difference

The Afterschool Alliance is one of the leading advocates for raising awareness of the neccessity for afterschool programs and a leading voice for additional investment in afterschool programs. The Alliance partners with the Presidential Administration, Congress, and state and local governments around the country.

For much of the past decade, the organization has compiled information from around the country that highlight the success of after school programs in such areas as: improved school attendance, more engagement in learning, improved test scores and grades, improved child safety and health, and aiding working families.

Afterschool programs have shown to do all those things curfew centers are being proposed to address. Why re-invent the wheel when you can aid or help fund existing organizations who have already took up the cause.

St. Francis Neighborhood Center (Facebook page)
St. Francis Neighborhood Center (Facebook page)

St. Francis Neighborhood Center

Case in point: The St. Francis Neighborhood Center (SFNC) has been serving the needs of the Reservoir Hill community in Baltimore City since 1963 and was incorporated in 1972 as a neighborhood nonprofit, independent of any church affiliation.

SFNC’s mission statement “is to break the cycle of poverty through education, inspiring self-esteem, self-improvement and strengthening connections within the community.” This is definitely needed in a Reservoir Hill community that suffers from urban plight on a greater scale than the rest of Baltimore City.

The Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance-Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore (known as BNIA-JFI) is a nonprofit organization whose core mission is to provide open access to meaningful, reliable, and actionable data about, and for, the City of Baltimore and its communities

BNIA-JFI statistics, in conjunction with the 2010 US Census, painted the picture of a neighborhood in desperate need of help. Here are their numbers:

  • The community has 9,668 residents, 24 percent are under 18, which is about 2,320 youth
  • Reservoir Hill’s unemployment rate is 19 percent, higher than the Baltimore City average of 13 percent
  • Median average income is $28,502 compared to the City average of $40,000
  • High school dropout rate is 6 percent compared to 4 percent for Baltimore City
  • 42 percent of children live below the poverty line compared to the City’s rate of 32 percent
  • Juvenile arrest rate was 101, compared to Baltimore City’s rate of 79.22 per 1,000 youth
  • Violent crime rate is 18 arrests per 1,000 residents, while Baltimore City’s rate of 15 arrests per 1,000 residents

Both in 2008 and 2013, the St. Francis Center surveyed the neighborhood to see what types of programs Resevoir Hill needed and wanted. The results overwhelmingly indicated that the community wanted youth-based iniatives centered around education, the arts, and mentoring.

St. Francis Neighborhood Center  (Facebook page)
St. Francis Neighborhood Center (Facebook page)

In response to the findings, the St. Francis Center constructed and implemented an after school arts and academic youth program called the Power Project and a sister program of project-based learning for the summer months called the Summer of Service Excursion.

These programs help disadvantaged kids from the ages of 5 to 14 and incorporates supplemental reading and math instruction, tutoring and mentoring, art education, community engagement activities, physical education and targets summer learning loss.

On top of that, the St. Francis Center gives these kids free meals and snacks.

Needed funding does not need to come from City Hall

It appears the Mayor is aware of the plight of Baltimore City youth. I believe the passage of a youth curfew and the proposal of curfew drop-off centers are well intended. But as stated earlier, the numbers dont show a curfew to be that effective in provided the desired ends and there has been no funding mechanism given to pay for the new centers.

If the Mayor is serious about curfew centers and has a way to pay for them, how about using those funds to create a city fund to aid established afterschool programs. In one form or another the St. Francis Center has been trying to help Resevoir Hill for more than a half century. They’ve done the research into what needs to be done and have successfully implemented those ideas.

What reality has forced Baltimore to face is that we have a government with no viable solutions on the table and organizations making a difference lacking the means to do so.

I’m sad to say that the St. Francis’ Summer of Service Excursion program has lost major funding for the summer. It is currently the only free academically based program serving youth in the Reservoir Hill community.

That’s 42 kids this summer who won’t be able to experience academic re-inforcement or have a nurturing and safe environment this coming summer.

But unlike a government shutdown or mismanaged public funds, we everyday citizens can actually do something. You can help the St. Francis Center “Save the Summer” by sponsoring a child. Here are the details, you can either do one or both.

Sponsor one child for one day ($20), one week, ($80) or all six weeks of the program, ($480). Also a special fundraising event will be held June 10 at Gitan Bistro Cru from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $30 for all-you-can-eat heavy horderves and a four glass flight wine paring.

Your involvement doesnt have to end with the summer months, go to to find out more about all their programs and how donations of money and or time will help Resevoir Hill.

We can’t totally complain about City Hall if we live a life of indifference to everything that plagues the city we live in.