Children caught violating Philadelphia’s curfew this fall may be taken to a late-night resource center instead of a police station.
Three city-funded “evening resource centers” could open as early as October, reviving an idea from former Mayor John Street’s administration. Officials are seeking applications from nonprofit groups to run the sites.
Reestablishing the centers is part of a broader push to break the cycle of gun violence in Philadelphia, and it coincides with significant changes to the curfew laws.
“Our young people in the city of Philadelphia are desperate for investment,” City Councilwoman Katherine Gilmore Richardson told reporters on Aug. 5 outside City Hall.
“Many of them get caught up in violence simply because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time, or because they have other challenges at home or in their community and don’t have the support they need to stay safe and off the street,” she added.
Gilmore Richardson has advocated for bringing back curfew centers, and her legislation removing fines for violators and simplifying the city’s ordinance was signed by Mayor Jim Kenney last week.
During the course of the one-year pilot program, the three centers, which will be open for kids between the ages of 10 and 17, will open daily from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., according to a request for proposals document issued July 29.
The East Police Division, encompassing Kensington, Fishtown, Port Richmond and eastern parts of North Philadelphia, will have a site, as will the Southwest (West and Southwest Philadelphia) and South divisions.
In those areas, officers will escort children picked up after curfew to the centers if they cannot take them home, the RFP says.
Nonprofit operators will be required to have a van dedicated to taking the kids back to their parent or guardian’s house.
Community groups hoping to run one of the sites have until Aug. 26 to apply, and there is a mandatory pre-proposal meeting with city officials this Wednesday, Aug. 11. The contract is expected to be awarded Oct. 1; from there, the organizations will have 45 days to establish the centers.
Programming will be developed with input from those taken to the sites, said Philadelphia Department of Human Services Commissioner Kimberly Ali. Traditional services for at-risk youth, such as discussions about anger management and conflict resolution, will also be incorporated.
Officials hope that children will want to participate in the activities and return to the sites at their own free will, which is why the locations will open before curfew.
Gilmore Richardson’s legislation, which passed City Council in June, streamlined the curfew, setting it at midnight for those 16 and older, 10 p.m. for 14 and 15-year-olds and 9:30 p.m. for 13 and under. Previously, the curfew changed seasonally and on the weekends.
The bill also eliminated all fines, which were seen as having a disproportionate impact on low-income families.
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said the new guidelines are easier to understand for parents and officers.
“We support any and all efforts that help our kids, our children, learn from their mistakes while putting them on a path to success,” she said last week.
Each evening resource center will have a budget of $650,000, part of the $155 million Council and Kenney allocated to a wide array of violence prevention initiatives during this summer’s budget negotiations.
If the pilot is successful, the plan is to add three additional sites so that every police division has at least one location.