Boston's Ten-Point Coalition Combines Faith and Community to Help Violent Youth
By Michelle Gaseau, Managing Editor
Faith-based initiatives to curb youth violence are in the spotlight in recent months and for good reason. These efforts to target street outreach to a community's most troubled youth have had positive results in recent years. One of the most successful faith-based programs nationally is a program in Boston called the Ten-Point Coalition.
This program and several others are the subjects of an evaluation of faith-based programs nationwide by Public/Private Ventures of Philadelphia, which is supported by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. P/PV, a national non-profit, works with philanthropies, the public and business sectors as well as other non-profits to improve the effectiveness of social policy, programs, and community initiatives especially those relating to juveniles and young adults. See the report at http://www.ppv.org/indexfiles/faith-index.html.
Rev. Eugene Rivers III, one of the founders of Boston's Ten-Point Coalition and pastor of the Azusa Christian Community, recently spoke with Time2Act.org about the program, its effectiveness and about the success of faith-based initiatives nationwide.
Q: Who is involved in the Ten-Point Coalition and how did it begin?
Rivers: It is a collaboration of law enforcement, church leaders, clergy, law enforcement, federal, state and municipal officials, the U.S. Attorneys Office, State Attorney's Office, the District Attorney's Office as well as the Department of Probation.
There are two versions of the story. The first, which is largely mythical, is the clergy [in the city] had an epiphany in 1992 as a result of Morningstar event -- when in the spring of 1992 several youth attacked a church in the middle of a funeral.
The reality is that I collaborated with a young drug dealer in 1991 to create a 10-point plan but there were no buyers for the plan at the time. It took the tragedy of the Morningstar Baptist Church to raise this issue.
Q: How does it work?
Rivers: We have weekly meetings at [the church's community center] the Ella J. Baker House with the clergy and police department that includes information-sharing and gathering and trend analysis for the high-risk youth population. We then identify the high-risk youth who require much more attention on an individual basis in the Dorchester/ Roxbury area [of the city.]
Clergy, probation and the police department team up to do the outreach. It is street level outreach that includes home visits, working with the department of probation and the courts. The courts can sentence the youth [on probation] to alternatives such as cultural enrichment programs. That's a large part of what is now successful as a model.
To view the organizations Ten-Point Plan click here: http://www.ntlf.org/ten_point_plan.htm
Q: Are the youth receptive?
Rivers: Out of every 10 kids, nine will be receptive if you are creative and you are a caring adult. You'll have one or two who won't be and in those cases you
use the carrot and the stick approach, but both are real.
You meet the child where they live and have defined goals for the child - those include helping them avoid violence, acquiring literacy and getting a job. We also minister, mentor and monitor the youth involved in the program.
The difference between faith-based initiatives and other programs is that you focus on doing street level outreach, targeting the hot spot areas and violent youth. Most other programs don't target violent high-risk youth. It's a difficult population and this is not work that everyone is cut out for. Clergy, police and probation need to be aware of this.
Q: There is a new national focus on faith-based initiatives - will these efforts pay off?
Rivers: My sense is it is a good thing. It will pay off for some and less for others. It is an area that will be increasingly important as faith-based institutions serve and function as the premier institutions of civil society in very poor neighborhoods.
Boston was unique because of some of the events and political actors and the opportunities. But you have excellent work being done in Indianapolis; Gary, Indiana; Tulsa, Oklahoma and in Dallas. There is recognition that you have a growing cohort [of youth] and as it emerges it will need a different approach.
Q: The experience in Boston paid off in the dramatic reduction of crime in the city, but recently there has been an increase. Why?
Rivers: What we have surfacing is something we had predicted. In 1996, we predicted that by the year 2000 or 2001 we would see an up tick [in crime in the city] and most people didn't pay attention to it. The reality is what we had was a new phenomena. We knew based on census track data that we would see the emergence of a new cohort of high-risk youth. We would see a 27 percent increase in the number of 15 to 19 year-olds.
We're now seeing the 15 year-olds emerging on the radar screen.
There are two related phenomena we are seeing in the city: a) You have 250 young men coming out of local jails who were arrested 10 years ago who are now meeting 14 year-old with their first guns on the street corner. That is a combustible combination. And b) How do we absorb a 27 percent increase in this group?
For more information about the Ten-Point Coalition, visit the web page at www.ntlf.org or www.thebakerhouse.org
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