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St. Louis Urban League’s Anti-Violence Program Gets Infusion Of Federal Money

Gov. Mike Parson meets with leaders from the Urban League, ARCHS and other anti-violence groups in St. Louis on Sept. 9, 2020.
Rachel Lippmann
St. Louis Public Radio
Gov. Mike Parson listens as James Clark, vice president of public safety for the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, talks about the Serving Our Streets initiative on Wednesday. Parson was in town to announce $1 million in federal funding for the program.

A program that brings drug treatment, job training and dispute de-escalation to some of St. Louis’ most violent neighborhoods has gotten a $1 million boost.

Gov. Mike Parson was in St. Louis on Wednesday to announce the federal grant for the Urban League’s Serving Our Streets initiative. The funding will allow the program to expand to four more neighborhoods — Baden, JeffVanderLou, Walnut Park and the Murphy Blair apartments, all in north St. Louis.

“We know we have a serious issue with violent crime in Missouri, and the Serving Our Streets Initiative is a very valuable tool in addressing these issues at the local level,” Parson said. “We are excited to see the initiative expand, which is another great step in our overall efforts to combat violent crime and make our communities safer.”

James Clark, vice president of public safety at the Urban League, praised Parson’s commitment to fighting violent crime in the city. As of Tuesday, 191 people had been killed, just three fewer than in all of 2019.

“I want to thank Gov. Parson for not just hearing the cries from the urban core, but then feeling cries of families in the urban core and then being willing to do something about it,” Clark said. He led similar programs for years at Better Family Life.

Parson said he knows the additional money is not enough to completely solve the city’s crime issues.

“Look, at some point you’re going to have to have more community involvement, which is what they’re all doing here, but you’re also going to have to have more community involvement in the police,” he said.

Parson avoided questions about whether the state’s gun laws are too loose and contribute to the violence in St. Louis. The vast majority of the 191 murders were committed with firearms.

The Urban League is receiving 80% of the $1 million funding. A second nonprofit, ARCHS St. Louis, will use the rest of the money to evaluate Serving Our Streets — which is critical to securing funding in the future.

“The strategic evaluation of the model is going to justify the expansion of the model, whether it’s state funding, private funding or federal funding,” said ARCHS Executive Director Wendell Kimbrough.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.