As Hope in Youth officials push for legislation that would bring $2.5 million to the organization, youths in East Los Angeles have started raising funds to continue their anti-violence and neighborhood improvement campaign.
Teen-agers involved in the East Los Angeles Youth Leadership Council, which was cut from funding by the embattled Hope in Youth one month ago, are angered by what they see as officials' disregard for their work. They held a private meeting April 6 with Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina to voice concerns about her opposition to more county funding for Hope in Youth, which was started last year as an anti-gang initiative coordinated by churches and government and community groups.
The county had contributed $2.9 million to Hope in Youth's $7.4-million budget last year but voted last fall against funding for this year. Molina said then she did not believe the organization did enough work in the community to warrant a second year of funding.
Molina agreed to meet again with the group and review their objectives for the community. She said she does not want to disparage the group's individual efforts, but insists that Hope in Youth did not prove to her that it deserves additional county funding when other, longer-term groups need money too.
"The goal here is curbing the violence and having more accountability by the parents," Molina said. "They said they'd be organizing parents and, very frankly, that didn't evolve.
"When we look at East L.A., there are churches here that are not involved. We asked them why, and the churches said they hadn't been asked."
Rosalinda Lugo, Hope in Youth associate director, said federal funds kept the East Los Angeles site open a month after 22 other sites were closed because of the county's decision not to fund the group. After the federal money ran out, another 12 sites were closed, including the one in East Los Angeles. That leaves 10 sites open out of the original 42.
"We were shocked by what the county did," Lugo said. "They had invested this money in Hope in Youth and after one year they pulled out. They knew it was a five-year strategy. For them to have done that doesn't make any sense."
The Youth Leadership Council, which claims 50 members, planned to hold a dance last night to raise money for programs and pay its telephone bill. They have also received permission from La Trinidad United Methodist Church to continue operating there at no cost.
A bill making its way through the state Assembly would allocate $2.5 million to reopen 12 sites, including one in East Los Angeles.
"I benefit a lot from the East L.A. Council," Michelle Pinedo, 17, a senior at Garfield High School, told the supervisor. "I bring in my friends and my family. I want to do something in my community to make it better."
Pinedo and other youths asked Molina to observe their actions in the neighborhoods, which have included mural paintings, graffiti paint-outs, trash pickups and job training, rather than grouping them with the overall efforts by Hope in Youth, which may have fallen short.
"There's been so much disappointment. (The members) are so dismayed in the process," said Guy Torres, director of the East L.A. Youth Leadership Council. "Some of them have become jaded. That's just some of the work that I have to do to get them motivated once again."