play Finalist / 2019
MacArthur Park Green Team
The Green Team will revitalize and activate MacArthur Park in Central Los Angeles using a holistic, community-based approach to improving public safety. A team of local, at-risk youth will lead efforts to reclaim the space and partner with park maintenance and local businesses. They will host events to activate the park as a community gathering space while building relevant skills for career success. The Green Team helps youth advance sustainable change in their community and at MacArthur Park.
What does your organization do?
Youth Policy Institute’s mission is to reduce poverty in Los Angeles using a holistic approach and comprehensive services to enable a successful transition from cradle to college and career.
Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.
At YPI, we believe that the key to breaking the cycle of poverty is holistic, integrated resources that support families across their days and their lives. Our services are individualized to meet individuals’ specific needs and harness the power of human interaction to create lasting connections between our staff, our participants, and the communities we serve. For example, Emily, a participant in our Girls & Gangs juvenile re-entry program, described her relationship with her Case Manager, Vanessa, as crucial to her success: “When I first met Vanessa, she said, ‘I will be there for you.’ I did not believe her back then…. Vanessa has been there for me. She even went to my graduation: my mom couldn’t go…. Sometimes water is thicker than blood.” After being incarcerated at 14, Vanessa has stable employment and is raising a daughter. The Green Team will rely on the power of relationships like Emily and Vanessa’s to support Green Team members as they revitalize MacArthur Park and build skills for career success.
To turn community inspiration into sustainable impact, YPI helps individuals empower themselves to achieve their own goals and build up their communities. To achieve this, we prioritize hiring staff from the communities we serve who bring to their task a unique understanding of the barriers youth face and can be role models as well as tutors, teachers, and coaches. Through this practice, we hope to inspire youth to be the change in their communities. Jonathan, a student in YPI’s GEAR UP college-readiness programming, worked with his classmates to create Safe-Way, a software system to help homeless and at-risk families navigate services and find stable housing. Jonathan is now a junior in high school and received a $20,000 scholarship to attend university, where he plans to study computer science and continue developing Safe-Way. Like Jonathan, the Green Team members will lead efforts to support and reclaim their community.
Which of the play metrics will your submission impact?
- Access to open space and park facilities
- Number of residents with easy access to a “vibrant” park
- Per capita crime rates
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
- Central LA
How will your project make LA the best place to play?
The Green Team, led by local youth, will revitalize MacArthur Park through community cleanup and beautification activities designed to activate the park. The project will target the Westlake community, bringing local high-need youth onto our team to work in partnership with their community towards a shared vision for the park. The Green Team will serve a vibrant but historically underserved community facing numerous barriers to success. 72% of residents live below 185% of the federal poverty level, the cutoff for WIC eligibility (American Community Survey [ACS], 2017) and face poverty-related barriers including food insecurity, housing instability, and underserved schools. The project will target out-of-school youth, many of whom are also not employed. Unemployment among youth ages 16-24 is 20%, higher than the City-wide youth unemployment rate of 17% and City-wide adult unemployment rate of 4% (ACS, 2017).
The Green Team will take a holistic approach to neighborhood revitalization by empowering at-risk youth to play a key role in their community and make MacArthur Park a safe and welcoming place to PLAY. Our strategy takes a well-rounded approach to revitalizing the park, focusing on direct cleanup services, local business’ revitalization efforts, and community activation, all with the goal of elevating MacArthur Park as a vibrant community gathering space.
Green Team members will support ongoing community engagement work in and around MacArthur Park, enhancing YPI’s strategy to improve safety by activating the park and having community members act as “natural guardians.” The team will lead community engagement workshops, stepping up as community leaders and using their connections to the community to inform future activation strategies.
Youth will assist the LA Department of Recreation and Parks (RAP) with daily park maintenance, community cleanups, and identifying areas of the park that need additional support. Four Green Team members will complete hazardous waste disposal training in order to assist RAP staff with removal of used needles, which currently shut down large areas of the park until City officials arrive to dispose of them safely.
Green Team efforts will also target the streets around the park, partnering with local small businesses to identify hot spots and lead community cleanups and beautification activities. The Green Team will promote adoption of an incident database, developed by a YPI AmeriCorps VISTA Member, to streamline reporting and data analysis of vandalism and burglary as a tool for crime response and prevention.
The Green Team will operate four 10-week cohorts during the project period with a one-month startup period to hire staff and recruit participants and a weeklong transition period between cohorts. Through these activities, the Green Team aims to increase perceptions of safety, lower the per capita crime rate, and make MacArthur Park into an accessible hub of community activity and play.
In what stage of innovation is this project?
Pilot project (testing a new idea on a small scale to prove feasibility)
Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.
The goal of the Green Team is to make MacArthur Park a safe and accessible place for the community to gather and play through a job creation program for local youth. Through a program that activates local youth and the community at large to reclaim their park, we hope to decrease per capita crime rates and increase the number of residents with easy access to a vibrant park. The project is also designed to decrease youth unemployment by providing job training and work experience for high-need youth.
To move the needle on these LA2050 indicators, YPI will measure project success by tracking the number of graffiti removals, neighborhood cleanups, and other beautification projects facilitated by the team at the end of each cohort. To promote activation of the park and community engagement in the Green Team project, the team will provide 12 community workshops at the MacArthur Park Community Center.
As a job creation program, the Green Team will be successful if 20 youth are enrolled over one year and 17 youth complete the program. The 85% projected retention rate is based on our existing paid work experience programs and takes into account the high and varied needs of youth in the Pico-Union and Westlake communities. The Green Team will provide wraparound services to support Green Team members in meeting their basic needs, such as connections to housing services, case management, and a living wage, to help them continue the program and go on to stable employment.
The Green Team is a place-based project focused on reclaiming and revitalizing the MacArthur Park community and, as such, YPI places a high priority on Green Team participants being from the community. We will collect most recent address information during enrollment and onboarding to ensure 100% of members reside in the Westlake or Pico-Union areas.
Finally, the Green Team will measure success on the creation of two deliverables: a crime incident reporting database designed by an AmeriCorps VISTA member for local businesses and a program manual of best practices created by the Program Coordinator to guide and streamline future implementation.