The City Council Tuesday unanimously voted to create a Youth Development Department to centralize the city’s response to the high number of young people living in poverty and being arrested in Los Angeles.

Councilman Monica Rodriguez, who co-introduced the motion to create the department, said the council is “making history in the creation of the city’s first Youth Development Department that will help to address and uplift the needs of the more than 800,000 young people in the city, and young adults, who desperately coming out of this pandemic are going to continue to need greater resources and access to supportive programs that currently are very difficult for them to access and identify.”

The city’s youth programs are currently spread across 26 departments without a centralized approach, and in February, Rodriguez, along with Councilman Kevin de León and Councilwoman Nithya Raman, introduced a motion to create one department to focus all of its resources on young Angelenos, saying they “deserve a government structured and designed to meet their needs informed by their voice, not outdated preservation of unmeasured programs.”

“For 50 years, youth development work has operated as a subsidiary of other initiatives. Intervention strategies should not begin upon entanglements with law enforcement, greater investments in diverse early prevention efforts are desperately needed,” the motion reads. “Systemic reforms are needed with a singular focus on youth ages 10-25, a population that has been overlooked in strategic investments and programming.”

The department will serve as the central information center for the public to access youth services in Los Angeles. It will also develop a road map for long-term youth program planning; coordinate with city departments to develop a citywide three-year Youth Development Strategic Plan; advise the mayor and the City Council on the city youth program to ensure efficient use of city resources and the greatest return on its investment; and provide necessary staffing for the Olivia Mitchell Youth Council.

Of the 800,000 young people between the ages of 10 and 25 in Los Angeles, 200,000 are living in poverty and 3,000 are homeless, according to the motion.

According to Rodriguez’s office, people between 10 and 25 also made up 32% of arrests over the last 10 years.

“The greatest gains in public safety are achieved when we invest in people and we must act with urgency,” Rodriguez said in February. “Investments in youth need to be commensurate with our investments in law enforcement. A centralized Youth Development Department focused on enrichment programs and job training as an early intervention strategy will provide our most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods greater access to resources that were desperately needed pre-pandemic, but worsened by academic disruption and job loss.”

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