2 September 2005


Rochester: City offers incentives for firms to hire at-risk youths

Twice in the past 18 months, Peter DeLucia and AAC Contracting Inc. have hired young urban men the rest of the community overlooked, or looked away from.

"Not having been shown that opportunity, sometimes they come in with a real thirst," AAC's human resources and safety manager said of the 14 young men hired through a pilot program with the city. Twelve are still with the company. "They do feel obligated to make this work because ... it can lead to a lot more opportunities for a lot more people."

The city announced last week it is offering $170,000 to support new efforts that build on the Pathways to Peace pilot program. The goal is employment for hard-to-reach, severely at-risk 18- to 26-year-olds, though programs could offer mentoring or support existing efforts.

"There are a lot of programs that are funded but there are very few that do outreach to this particular group," said Jackie Campbell, director for the city's Bureau of Human Services.

The city's request for proposals is not in response to what has been a violent summer in Rochester, she said. So far this year, the city has recorded 32 homicides, plus one suspicious death that remains under investigation.

Campbell said the bulk of services in the community are targeted at youth 17 and younger. Outside of grassroots efforts, she said, "the only services being provided to this particular group are coming from the criminal justice institutions ... and that does not speak to their development, they (the services) are punishment."

The Community Development Block Grant money should fund at least two programs and represents the first of what will be a three- to five-year commitment, she said.

Among the nation's 60 largest cities, Rochester ranks 15th in per-capita homicides; among 100 cities of the same size, it ranks third. In some neighborhoods, unemployment is 23 percent, and the youth dropout rate nears 70 percent, according to the bureau.

Pathways coordinator Kennan Allen said the pilot program also provided job training to 40 people since 2004. He is looking to hand off the effort, as it is beyond Pathways' scope.

Begun in 1998, the city initiative "channels young city residents toward an array of community resources to prevent youth violence."

Brian Sharp
September 1, 2005

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