City of Cleveland plans to transform recreation centers to include neighborhood resources
FIRST CITY IN THE NATION TO OFFER TRAUMA INFORMED CARE AT ITS RECREATION CENTERS
by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, May 2019) At an April 10thnews conference with members of the Neighborhood & Community Media Association of Greater Cleveland, Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson and Chief Tracy Martin-Thompson, of the Mayor’s Office of Prevention, Intervention and Opportunities for Youth and Young Adults, shared their plans to transform Cleveland’s 22 Recreation Centers into Neighborhood Resource and Recreation Centers.
Mayor Jackson shared some background on how the idea for the transformation of the recreation centers came about. He said, in planning around the City of Cleveland’s response to the Consent Decree with the United States Department of Justice, the city was looking at crime, particularly violent crime and gun violence associated with youth.
A 2017, a City of Cleveland report titled, “A New Model for Addressing Youth Violence as a Public Health Issue” called for addressing youth violence as a public health issue rather than just a public safety issue.
Mayor Jackson said that the social and economic indicators in some neighborhoods where crime is prevalent, fit the definition of a toxic environment. Youths in these neighborhoods, he said, are experiencing traumatic situations resulting in their suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Chief Martin-Thompson said the City of Cleveland effort to treat youth violence as a public health issue will involve prevention and intervention measures at Cleveland’s new Neighborhood Resource and Recreation Centers. This involves introducing Trauma Informed Care. She said all City of Cleveland Recreation Center staff are being trained to know what trauma is, and to recognize toxic stress symptoms in youth and young adults.
Chief Martin-Thompson says anyone who has contact with youth at the Neighborhood Resource and Recreation Centers, such as members of the Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance, will receive trauma coaching.
The leaders of the centers, she noted, will receive special training in how to develop and design standards for trauma informed care and how to create a community resource center.
As part of this effort, Mayor Jackson has moved the Community Relations Board under the umbrella of Chief Martin-Thompson’s Office of Prevention, Intervention and Opportunities for Youth and Young Adults (PIOYYA). Martin-Thompson says the Community Relations Board staff will be involved in helping to change the culture in the recreation centers, a necessary step in implementing the new program.
Chief Martin-Thompson says while trauma informed care is being used in various social service and mental health settings, schools and homeless shelters, Cleveland will be a pioneer, the first city in the country to implement such a program through its recreation centers.
Chief Martin-Thompson says the mental health service provider, Front Line Services, is partnering with the City of Cleveland to help implement this program. Thus far, they have assigned two supervisors and ten social workers to work on the program. Each social worker will act as a trauma coach and will work with two Cleveland recreation centers.
Mayor Jackson said the program will roll out gradually. He said he expects it will take more than a year to get it up and running. He noted that legislation has been introduced to Cleveland City Council and requests for proposals were sent out in October of last year. Various community organizations and service providers have responded to the proposals and they are being reviewed. Jackson said that each recreation center will have different services depending on the needs of the neighborhood and the proposals that have been accepted.
As to how many people the program will potentially reach, the Mayor’s Office Social Media and Digital Communications Manager Nancy Kelsey says Cleveland’s twenty-two Recreation Centers have an average of 16,000 visitors per week. Mayor Jackson acknowledged that not everyone will want to access the help available.
Jackson said his administration has allocated one million dollars to the trauma coaches and another $2 million to develop programing “above what we do at the recreation centers” at the new Neighborhood Resource and Recreation Centers. Jackson says that the formal name changes at the recreation centers will not occur until the programs are up and running.
Chief Martin-Thompson says the request for proposals sent out fall into six categories of services they hope to have at the new Neighborhood Resource and Recreation Centers. She said the categories are: Youth and Adult Education; Job and Career Readiness; Health and Wellness; Youth Development, Mentorship, Leadership and Community Service; The Arts; and Sports and Recreation.
Martin-Thompson elaborated on some of the services that the city hopes to provide in the centers. Youth and adult education services will include post-secondary educational support such as ACT and SAT test preparation and help with college applications. Adult education will include GED test preparation and English as a Second Language classes.
Job and Career Readiness will include job training, connections to job appointments, career planning, and follow-up career planning for individuals with entry level jobs, said Martin-Thompson.
Health and Wellness programing will include chronic disease management and other health services, she said.
Community programs that emphasize developing youth leadership and creating mentoring programs will be part of the new centers, Chief Martin-Thompson said.
In addition, the new centers will develop single gender programs for youth. Martin-Thompson said that Front Line surveyed girls from around the city to find out what types of programs they needed. Requests came for help addressing sexual issues, body image issues and identity.
Concerning arts programing at the new centers, Martin-Thompson said the community has shown “significant desire for community arts programming from the visual arts to performing arts.”
Under sports and recreation, Chief Martin-Thompson says she hopes to expand access to existing programs and add sports such as skiing and gymnastics.
Speaking of the goal of the services the city will offer in the six categories, Mayor Jackson said, “These new services are aimed at empowering youth and young adults to explore new opportunities that will allow them to become more well-rounded and successful.”
This summer, as part of the program, Martin-Thompson said the City of Cleveland will work with Youth Opportunities Unlimited to provide youth with 400 jobs in the Department of Public Utilities and 20 paid internships in Cleveland City Hall. The summer jobs and internships will be available to tenth, eleventh and twelfth grade students, she said.
Martin-Thompson says her department also plans to work with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Say Yes to Education to develop an out of school time component to the Say Yes to Education programming.