The Issue: At the request of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Pittsburgh City Council agreed last year to pay local nonprofit Three Rivers Youth $500,000 to operate a curfew center in Oakland. The center houses and counsels anyone under the age of 17 picked up by police for staying out past curfew (11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends). With Three Rivers Youth's contract set to expire at the end of August, city council must decide whether to continue the program.
Downside of the Program: It's not being used. The center has served just 28 kids since it opened last September. "The [curfew center] would be wonderful if it worked," says Councilor Theresa Smith. "I'm tired of the promises and no results." Smith thinks the program is wasting public dollars. "$500,000 could pay for so much more," she says, adding that the money would be better used for after-school programs, youth-employment opportunities or rehab programs for parents. "You don't want to see money being spent in a way that is not being utilized," agrees Lauren Byrne, executive director of Lawrenceville United. "We could probably get [a program] that works better."
Upside of the Program: As far as community outreach is concerned, "We've done impressive work," says Peggy Harris, CEO of Three Rivers Youth. She notes that curfew-center programming includes talking to kids on the street and making presentations to church groups. "We've probably done 6,000 hours of outreach since we started." She admits that 28 kids is very low, but says her organization has no control over how many youths are brought to the center by police. Harris favors a new contract, but says it should be "modified." Harris says the program has cut its staff by half but more cuts may be necessary.
How you can sound off: City council is scheduled to discuss the curfew center during a special meeting at 1:30 p.m., Tue., July 6. While no public comment will be taken, you can voice your opinion prior to council's regular public meetings each Tuesday and Wednesday at 10 a.m. on the fifth floor of the City-County Building, 414 Grant St., Downtown.