The City of Los Angeles is expected to bring in $50 million from marijuana sales in 2018, and $250 million over the next five years. According to a report authored by Advancement Project California, LA officials should use that new money to create a youth development department and to fund programs that will engage and serve disconnected youth, and those who face homelessness, poverty, and criminalization.
While services exist in Los Angeles to help these populations, the city’s efforts are “piecemeal,” according to the report, which was created in partnership with Legacy LA, Big Citizen Hub and Self Help Graphics & Art.
LA should have a single unifying department focused on youth development, the report states, rather than the city’s current approach, which involves numerous agencies overseeing the area’s programs.
“This pattern of investment by the City has serious consequences for the region’s growth as homelessness surges, poverty intensifies, and deteriorating infrastructure jeopardizes public safety,” the report states. “This area, positive youth development outside of schools, is one where the City must play the leading role, since it has the authority, resources, and long-term economic stakes in the development of young people.”
The City and County of San Francisco, which have a dedicated Department of Children Youth and Their Families, spend $213.8 million on youth development—or $1909 per youth between the ages of 10-24. New York spends $812.9 million—$541 per youth—and also has a dedicated Department of Youth and Community Development. In comparison, Los Angeles spends approximately $60.3 million—or $75 per youth—through various programs, according to the report. Moreover, spending in LA appears to be linked to the availability of revenue, rather than “long-term plans to address larger issues.”
LA’s lack of a dedicated department focused on improving outcomes and opportunities for the city’s youth “makes it less likely to attract federal and state investment,” the report says.
LA-area advocate groups, including the Youth Justice Coalition, have been calling for the creation of such a department for years.
“Now is the time for the City of Los Angeles to champion the needs of our highest-need youth,” said Asad Baig, Budget Analyst at Advancement Project California and a co-author of the report. “We believe the projected increase in revenue, coupled with the timely need for a cohesive youth development strategy is especially important to address head-on as our City’s population continues to grow and diversify.”
And while the city has been putting money into youth programs, the estimated amount ($75 per youth) is just not enough to provide the services necessary to uplift and support 200,000 young people living below the poverty level, the 69,000 16- to 24-year-olds who are not working or enrolled in school, the city’s 3,000 homeless youth, and the thousands arrested each year, according to report’s authors.
But the fact that the city doesn’t have a dedicated department makes it hard to determine what does and doesn’t serve as youth development, and what is actually working. “Although information is available in terms of utilization, most departments do not parse out how many youth actually benefitted from several service-oriented programs,” the report says.
The report recommends that the youth development department should be created by an independent commission comprised of community leaders, advocates, and youth, who could identify ways to fund the department, help to review city policies and services, and advise the mayor about what young people need.
The youth development department should coordinate with LA City departments serving youth, including the library system and the parks and recreation department, among others.
Funding should come quickly, the report says. The city should make an “immediate down payment” within the FY 2018-2019 budget for youth development, the report says.
“An immediate down payment for current youth programs in the FY2018-19 budget could play a key role in kick-starting the conversation in City Hall,” write the authors. “It will send a message of longterm strategy, accountability, and ownership. Not only will it enhance the credibility of youth development in Los Angeles, but will also set a precedent in the City’s operating budget.”