After sitting idle and vacant for many years in a community that’s in dire need of helpful resources and programs for young people, the West Oakland Youth Center will finally open its doors as the city enters an agreement with the County of Alameda to begin to offer youth services for a year starting Feb. 1, with two one-year options to renew the agreement.< p>The city will provide funding of up to $470,000 for the operation of the center and the development of youth programming.
The youth center has long been a work in progress, first led by former city councilmember Nancy Nadel, who back in 2009 engaged residents and youth to create a report on what programs were needed in the West Oakland community.
The report identified “free activities and services, job training programs, and age-specific programming” to be the most key needs for youth in West Oakland.
Under the agreement, the county will conduct a planning process by forming an advisory board with city staff, community and youth participation to decide what programs and activities will best serve the youth today.
With a focus on job training, programming will be provided through partnerships with community organizations, nonprofits, and other existing programs.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Councilmember Desley Brooks argued that members of the community, not city and county staff and administrators of nonprofits, should hold a majority of the seats on the advisory board to engage in the planning process.
Agreeing, Lincoln Casimer of the Alameda County Public Health Department said, “Our role is to make sure this is done in an inclusive way.”
Casimer has been appointed as the youth center coordinator and is also a member of the West Oakland Health and Safety Collaborative (WOHSC), which has been intricately involved in the process of getting the youth center open and running.
“We want the community to define it,” said Councilmember Lynette McElhaney.
“The community is really advising and guiding the work at the center…We want to make sure the process is transparent,” she said.
According to McElhaney, there will be part-time programming at the center expected to start soon after the planning process begins.
Kharyshi Wiginton, chair of WOHSC, is looking forward to the full range of services that the center can provide.
“We want the young people in our area to have somewhere where they have a safe space. This is just the beginning,” said Wiginton.