LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Youth violence is a problem the City of Lexington has focused on addressing for the last eight months. ONE Lexington was an initiative created by the City in 2017 and later revamped by Mayor Linda Gorton.
There have been 17 shootings in Lexington so far in 2022. Seven of the shooting victims have been 21-years-old or younger.
But what kind of resources does the group tasked with putting a dent in the senseless violence have? Director Devine Carama says it's evolving.
"I know a lot of people think this violence prevention and intervention is just a ONE Lexington thing. We literally have one and a half employees. Right, that are currently working on our first budget. And so this is really a collaborative effort. We're talking in the court system. We're talking to law enforcement and public safety. We're talking social services, we're talking parks and rec. We're talking our faith community, public schools, and even our non-profit sector," explained Carama.
Since it was re-prioritized last summer during budget talks, ONE Lexington currently doesn't have an annual budget.
They were given $31,000 from the city's general funds surplus to fund "It Takes a Village." That's what they've been using for the past eight months to fund their summer program, 38 group mentoring sessions, neighborhood engagement walks, food, scholarships, marketing, promotions, and more.
But that money has already been spent and exceeded, according to last year's report.
Mayor Linda Gorton says on top of the $31,000 they started with, the city had $1.6 million available through the city's extended social resource grant program for community violence prevention and intervention in the current budget. But it isn't clear how much of that was or is being spent on ONE Lexington.
So, until the new fiscal year starts in July, they won't have a dedicated budget.
Gorton says she's working on it and it will be released in April.
According to public documents we've seen, so far ONE Lexington is looking for $40,000 in American Rescue Fund dollars to purchase a van, $240,000 to expand the "It Takes a Village" summer program, money for a grant program to help boost up initiatives from other violence -intervention/prevention organizations, stipends for street outreach workers, money for activities, and money for victims support.
"There's gonna be evil out there that we can't control, but a ten-year-old shot and killed...having so many young teens with access to guns and being recruited by gangs...those are things that we can minister to," said Carama.
Mayor Gorton says some of the violence prevention and intervention work is also taken on by partners, which the city doesn't have to pay for. But no matter the budget, Carama says they are going to continue doing what they can with what they have.
"We're not going to end all violence, but I think there's room to end some of the senseless stuff that we're seeing," said Carama.
Here's Mayor Gorton's Official Statement on ONE Lexington's budget:
"Mayor Linda Gorton: "Violence prevention is funded in many ways throughout government. Most of it doesn't show up in the formal ONE Lexington budget. In the past several years we have supplemented funding for ONE Lexington through the city's fund balance. In addition, we had $1.6 million available through the city's extended social resource grant program for community violence prevention and intervention in the current budget.
A key focus of ONE Lexington is growing partnerships to help with the work. There is a significant number community stakeholders and volunteers who work with ONE Lexington. We have two government employees in the Mayor's Office assigned to ONE Lexington – more than ever before – and many other employees involved throughout government
I will recommend a new budget for ONE Lexington in April as part of our regular budget process."
One Lexington's partners:
● Cities United
● Social Services
● Parks & Rec
● Lexington Police Department
● Fayette County Sheriff's Office
● Health Department
● UK Trauma Center
● Fayette County Public Schools
● University of Kentucky
● Transylvania University
● Lexington Leadership Foundation
● Urban Impact
● Project Body Bag
● The Voyage Movement
● Stop The Bleed
● Lexington Rescue Mission
● United Way
● Urban League
● Black Achievers (YMCA of Central Kentucky)
● Black Soil
● Lexington Public Library
● LM Communications (107.9 The Beat)
● Lexington Art League
● Oneness Boutique
● Central Bank
● Galls LLC
Newly released One Lexington Plan:
Based on the P.I.E.R. method
- Prevention – Preventing conditions that lead to crime
- Intervention – Identifying and supporting youth engaged in high risk behavior.
- Enforcement – Keeping the community safe through building positive relationships and implementing community-oriented policing and enforcement strategies.
- Re-entry – Assisting incarcerated youth and young adults with successful transition to the community upon release.
- Quarterly Community Forums - Listen to the needs, concerns, and feedback from the communities we serve. These spaces also create a place for transparency between neighborhoods and the city agencies who are serving them.
- Neighborhood Leads - Empower and encourage neighborhood residents to lead community efforts within that specific neighborhood. Long standing, generational residents have lived experience and a unique connection to the place they live. City agencies should follow the lead of those residents when creating programming and providing services.
- Weekly or Monthly Newsletters - Keep residents informed on what work that is being done to address their needs and what methods are being used to keep the community safe.
- Mass Media - Using community radio stations, TV PSA, and social media to communicate information to the community.
- It Takes A Village Student Mentoring Program: A weekly youth summer mentoring program designed to provide educational and workforce preparation opportunities coupled with recreational activities, for Lexington youth ages 12 -17. Several community partners would collaborate in engaging under-served Lexington youth with emotional & social skill building workshops led by various community partners, regional college/career trade institutions, and fun activities where participants can bond with each other in a safe space. Trauma-informed practices guide our programs and initiatives by recognizing that trauma informs everyone's life and behavior. Young Black men and boys experience trauma at higher levels than other groups of Americans. Studies show that trauma has health effects long into adulthood. Unaddressed trauma is both a cause and consequence of exposure to crime and violence. Providing positive alternatives during the summer months can be a preventative measure addressing youth violence. Showing them that life can be more than their current circumstance is a key component towards young people investing in their own futures.
We have transitioned this mentoring program into 4 in-school mentoring programs.
Current In-school mentoring program schedule:
- Frederick Douglass High School - Mondays from 8:30 - 9:25 am
- Bryan Station High School - Mondays from 9:55 - 10:27 am
- Winburn Middle School - Monday from 1:17 - 2:07 pm & 2:11 - 3:01 pm
- Southern Middle School - Tuesdays from 9:05 - 9:35 am
- Dunbar High School - Tuesday from 10:30 - 11:00 am
- Henry Clay High School Tuesday - 11:25 - 11:50 am
- Lexington Traditional Magnet School - Wednesday 11:45 am - 12:15 pm
Parent/Guardian Support: Though it takes a village to raise a child, the primary responsibility rests with the parents. When we talk about the most vulnerable and under-served families in our community, there are several systemic and generational challenges that we as a city can address, substance use disorder, mental illness, economic disparities, and more. Also, Kentucky is one of the nation's leaders in grandparents raising their grandchildren. How can we as a city support these families who are the first and last line of defense for our children? As ONE Lexington continues to build its own capacity, we look to partner with organizations like the Fatherhood Initiative of the Lexington Leadership Foundation, to help support our families.
N.E.W. (Neighborhood Engagement Walks): A group of male mentors walk through different Lexington neighborhoods providing a positive presence and community service. The group has no enforcement capabilities but engages residents with community resources, including weekly food shares from Black Soil, Food Chain & the YMCA. This group will also assist in getting students to and from school safely, and will stay in touch with area schools on events that may have started in school and spill out into the neighborhood. We meet up every Wednesday at 6 pm for evening walks & food delivery and every Wednesday and Friday at 4 pm for LTMS after-school walks.
Be The Change College Scholarship Competition: ONE Lexington & Galls, LLC are PROUD to present the "Be the Change'' College Scholarship Competition. An opportunity for a rising Bryan Station High School senior of color, who is committed to attending a Kentucky college or university in pursuit of a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice or related field (police studies, social justice studies, pre-law, forensic science, emergency medical care, fire protection, homeland security and more) to be awarded a $20,000 scholarship!
We Are One poem program: In collaboration with Oneness Clothing Boutique, we launched our "We Are ONE" Anti-Violence Essay & Poem Contest for FCPS school students in September at LTMS. Students, in conjunction with their English classes, had the opportunity to win top notch streetwear and tennis shoes by completing an anti-violence essay/poem/rap. Students also got the opportunity to read their poem/rap on air with Jay Alexander on 170.9 The Beat. The goal is to get young people discussing the issues that are impacting them and using platforms to amplify those voices in hopes of inspiring positive change in their community.
Street Outreach (Cure Violence Method) This is a violence interruption strategy working to interrupt violence at the source and treats violence as a disease that spreads from person to person. Three core components of this strategy include interrupting the transmission of violence, reducing the risk of violent acts by those at the highest risk and changing community norms. The model relies on the efforts of community outreach workers who have deep and sustained relationships in the neighborhoods where they operate, enabling them to effectively engage with youth and community.
Youth Mediation Collective: With the support of FCPS, we have built a Youth Mediation Collective. If schools or parents, contact ONE Lexington to send someone out to mediate a fight in school between two students or a neighborhood beef between youth, we have 10-12 diverse mediators (who been formally trained in youth mediation and/or have experience in community youth engagement and resolving conflict) to deploy to even given situation and ONE Lexington provide a flat rate stipend to the organization or individual deployed to mediate. Mediators would work independently of ONE Lexington. Our role would only be to consolidate and synergize mediation efforts and provide support to individuals and organizations providing those services. We have successfully mediated conflicts at Lexington Traditional Magnet School, Crawford Middle School, Henry Clay High School, and Winburn Middle School. Violence Intervention Work Group: This is a weekly convening (as needed) to discuss incidents of gun violence in our city from the week prior. Usually, after a shooting occurs, ONE Lexington is making several calls and emails to get information and figure out ways the city can provide resources to victims and their families. This weekly meeting streamlines those efforts, making our work more efficient and impactful. Public safety, prosecutors' office, juvenile court, Fayette County Public Schools, victim advocacy agencies, and more are all on the call to help us provide wrap-around services for gunshot victims and their families.
Black Men of Lexington United: In October we challenged 100 BLACK MEN in Lexington to show up for a PSA about standing in solidarity against youth gun violence. I was humbled to see so many brothers come out and fellowship in the name of uplifting our young people. Now that we have so many men connected and yearning to be a part of the solution, we want to take advantage of that and turn it into ACTION. In November of 2021, ONE Lexington brought together different community partners together to host a Black Men United "Youth Engagement Opportunity Fair''. Each man in attendance received a copy of a newsletter listing the different organizations they can serve under and how. Victims' advocacy, youth engagement, re-entry, mentoring, intervention, conflict resolution, fatherhood support, etc. are all areas that you all specialize in and would be great spaces for our collective of men to serve. These men were added to our "Youth Intervention Database" for the new Kivvi Figgs, the Program Coordinator for the new Juvenile Treatment Court and other organizations looking for mentors.