MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Promising more still to come: Thursday night Mayor A C Wharton revealed part of his battle plan to fight youth violence.
For the first time since his youth violence forum three weeks ago, Mayor Wharton told WREG community centers and youth programs may be a part of the answer.
Mayor Wharton said his plan will be ready by the end of the year, so if more money is needed, it can be worked into the budget.
In the meantime, he’s got a few ideas in the works, like keeping community centers open on the weekends.
“We are now keeping those centers open on Friday and Saturday nights for basketball and fun things,” said Wharton
Each of the four centers attracts one hundred kids, and it will cost the city $80,000 to keep them open for the rest of the year.
“If there are one hundred boys in a community center on a Friday night, at 8:30 and 9 p.m., they are not getting shot and not shooting anybody,” said Wharton. “Then maybe when the churches will see the city is keeping its community centers open, and then the churches will maybe open their gyms on Friday and Saturday nights.”
He said he got word Thursday that Memphis was accepted to ‘My Brother’s Keeper.’ It’s a federal program for boys and young men of color that offers mentoring and skills to help them succeed.
Wharton applied to the program, and has the next 120 days to create a plan of action.
Wharton said he’s also expanding the Memphis Ambassadors‘ program from 400 kids to 1,000.
Right now, 2,000 kids apply for the program.
“They are required to adopt community service programs, maintain good character, stay in school , stay out of trouble and they get a stipend,” he said.
Wharton said he is also working on creating programs that offer career guidance and character building.
He activated a Youth City Council, which was created in 2007 but never formed.
Wharton said, “by the end of this year,” he will have a concrete plan, so if more money is needed, he can work that into the budget.
Wharton said he talks to Director Toney Armstrong every day, and doesn’t think more cops need to be hired to stop youth violence.
However, he said MPD is creating their own plan like cracking down on hot spots where youth violence is happening.
“For those who for whatever reason are beyond a reach of these programs, we have stepped up enforcement,” Wharton added.
Wharton will be holding four more forums, but this time only children are invited. Three of the forums will be held during the Shelby County Schools fall break.
-Oct. 7: 3p.m.-5p.m. at New Directions Christian Church
-Oct. 8: 3 p.m.-5 p.m. at Memphis Athletics Ministries Grizzlies Center
-Oct. 9: 3 p.m.-5p.m. at Bridges USA
-Oct. 18: 10 a.m. to Noon at First Baptist Church Broad in conjunction with their annual HBCU College Fair
Non-profits and community organizations who want to complete a survey on what needs to be done may do so by going to: www.cityofmemphisyouth.org. The link to the survey is on the front page of the site.