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Denver youth empowerment center aims to combat youth violence

The City & County of Denver said they proposed a youth center be built in the Valverde neighborhood to address youth delinquency in the city.

DENVER — Denver wants to establish a youth development center in the Valverde neighborhoods aimed at helping under-resourced communities across Denver. 

Denver City Council's Finance and Governance Committee approved a proposal to acquire property to build the center Tuesday, and it now moves on to a full city council vote, the City & County of Denver announced in a news release. 

> The video above aired on July 17 and is about the march against youth violence held in Montbello.

"We want young people to reach for resources, not weapons," Mayor Michael Hancock said. "We want them to find fulfillment, not become trapped in the criminal justice system." 

The building will host various youth programs, including behavioral and mental health programs, workforce and training services, entrepreneurship assistance and programs to support families.

"The community has been asking for a dedicated youth center for decades," Denver City Councilman Jolon Clark said. "In fact, the Valverde neighborhood, which I represent, first called for a youth center in its 1991 neighborhood plan."

Police Activities League (PAL), a non-profit organization, currently owns the building in question. It's located at 1240 W. Bayaud Ave. in Denver’s Valverde neighborhood near the Alameda Light Rail Station, Regional Transportation District (RTD) bus routes, Interstate 25 and Santa Fe Drive and includes a rock-climbing wall and basketball court adjacent to city-owned athletic fields.

The Youth Violence Prevention Action Table (YVPAT) is primarily responsible for leading these efforts, a program Hancock started in 2019. This initiative began as a public health approach to addressing youth violence. Now led by city attorney Kristin Bronson, they are navigating funding for the project amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the release said. 

"This center is the first of its kind of Denver, and we are excited to work with the community on the vision for its future, but we recognize that it is also just a first step," Bronson said. "We pursue opportunities of this scale one at a time as funding allows, especially as we navigate the toughest budget cycle Denver has experienced since the Great Depression."

While YVPAT waits on the city council's decision, they said they would continue their short-term action plan addressing youth violence prevention during the COVID-19 health crises.

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