Despite confusion and finger pointing during the second town hall meeting organized to get summer jobs for low-income First Ward youths, a job fair has been scheduled for next week as well as a meeting with Columbia business owners.
The series of meetings has been organized by First Ward Councilwoman Almeta Crayton to get youths out of the streets this summer. She said that too often youths who don’t have anything to do during the summer break hit the streets and run into trouble with the police.
“We had that problem last summer,” Crayton said to about 30 people who gathered at the Armory Sports and Community Center at 701 E. Ash St. on Tuesday evening. “This is urban America coming to you. We need to do something.”
According to the Office of Social and Economic Development Analysis, an MU outreach agency, Columbia’s central city has the city’s highest percentage of children in poverty.
The study, which divides Columbia by tracts, reveals that in two tracts that include much of the First Ward, as much as 20 percent of children grow up in poverty.
According to the study, in Tract 8003 about 20 percent of the youths younger than 17 live in poverty, and in Tract 8004 more than 18 percent do. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the central-west part of the First Ward has one of the lowest annual household incomes in the city.
The first concrete action since the first meeting was held last week will be a job fair for youths age 14 to 21, scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 22 at the Resource Center, 1500 Vandiver Drive.
Steven Tatlow, community involvement coordinator of the Boone County Community Partnership, organized the job fair and said he needs volunteers to let residents in the community know about the event and contact more employers to attend the fair.
During the meeting, a couple of outlines were put on the table to recruit youths and give them training and jobs that city organizations and social service agencies can’t provide because of limited funding.
During the hour-and-a-half meeting, some complained that past efforts by state and city agencies to get youth training and jobs leave highest-risk youths out of the loop.
“My kids are homeless,” said Lana Jacobs who lives at St. Francis House, a homeless shelter. “I want services for my kids.”