Nonprofit secures $2.1 million grant to help address youth violence in city’s north end
Leadership at We Are One United, including founder John Epps (seated), are pictured during an event at James O. Jessie Desert Highland Unity Center. The group has secured a major grant to help youth in District 1.

Nonprofit secures $2.1 million grant to help address youth violence in city’s north end

How to help youth in District 1 has long been a topic city police and neighbors have discussed, often with conflicting viewpoints.

Kendall Balchan image

Kendall Balchan

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June 21, 2022

There’s help on the way in the effort to prevent youth violence in northern Palm Springs.

Driving the news:We Are One United (WAOU), a Palm Springs-based nonprofit organization, received a $2.1 million grant from the California Board of State and Community Correction’s Violence Intervention and Prevention grant program earlier this month. The money will be disbursed during the next three years. 

  • The organization describes itself as a social enterprise that promotes equity and well-being through community innovation and opportunities like job training and development. 

Zoom in: WAOU’s grant proposal outlined its United for Safe Youth Initiative, an approach to tackling violence prevention in District 1.

The proposal lays out three specific actions: 

  • Mitigation: The group is frank about first addressing the “immediate conflict between two warring criminal street gangs.” WAOU will accomplish this by hiring and training people from the community to defuse crises and promote nonviolence. 

    • WAOU points to successful outreach programs such as Cure Violence that emphasize outreach and addressing the root causes of violence instead of relying on ineffective and harmful carceral methods. 
  • Mentoring: In this phase, WAOU turns to the underlying causes of violence by providing youth with mental health counseling and job training programs. 
    • WAOU has received another grant to implement strategies to improve the mental health of young people in north Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs.

  • Molding new leaders: The final phase includes WAOU’s Leadership Challenge, a program to train young people to become leaders in their community as they use practical and real-life skills to complete a capstone project.

What they’re saying: “This grant will really give our organization the opportunity to help build the social and economic infrastructure of District 1 and the surrounding communities of color. By following our strategy to build from within the community using our youth and young adults to lay a foundation of leadership, talent, and advocacy that will have great promise for the future.” — John Epps, founder of WAOU

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