Written by Kim Furlow, Institute for Public Health
The Institute’s Center for Community Health Partnership & Research, a founding member of the St. Louis Area Violence Prevention Commission (VPC), is helping the organization spread the word about a series of “Safer Summer St. Louis” events. The events include arts programs, fitness, relaxation, boxing, neighborhood improvement activities and more. They are designed to give area youth safe places to enjoy their time off from school.
VPC Project Director, Jessica Meyers says the program stems from interviews with dozens of youth about their safety concerns. “One of the common themes among those interviewed was a concern about the lack of safe spaces in their neighborhoods,” Meyers says. “Either the places in their neighborhood that should be safe are not, or safe places have barriers such as transportation issues or they don’t welcome youth.”
Meyers adds that the VPC’s strategy during the pandemic has been to partner with organizations to host pop-up events to give youth safe, fun activities on weekends. Events are scheduled from July through September and can be found on VPC’s website. A “Pop-Up Event Toolkit” is available which “provides the core elements and considerations for planning and implementing safe events for youth. It also provides a case study of Sacramento, CA. The city stages youth-centric events and has now gone more than two years without the murder of a person under 18,” says Meyers. The VPC invites local organizations to use the toolkit and then share their events with VPC, to be promoted on social media.
“It is vital that we have a variety of events to appeal to as many youth as possible,” Meyers adds. “We must all work together for a Safer Summer for St. Louis.” She thanks the Center for Community Health Partnership & Research for its continued commitment to the VPC Community Engagement Committee, which is helping support the Safer Summer St. Louis program.
To learn more about VPC or to join the Youth Safe Spaces Taskforce, visit stlareavpc.org.