Extended hours at rec centers in St. Louis coming to an end with the start of the school year

St. Louis City has been focusing this summer on giving youth a safe space to go at night.
Published: Aug. 14, 2023 at 6:02 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - St. Louis City has been focusing this summer on giving youth a safe space to go at night.

The extended hours program comes after a shooting nearly two months ago on Washington Avenue, which killed one teen and injured nearly a dozen others.

Marquette Rec Center in Dutchtown is one of the late-night safe spaces open for teens until 1 a.m. on Saturdays.

The Office of Violence Prevention’s Commissioner Wil Pinkney said with the school year starting, it isn’t feasible to continue this on a weekly basis.

Pinkney said after Aug. 26, those late-night events for kids and teens will be on a monthly basis.

“We don’t want to interfere with the work young people are doing at school time,” Pinkney said. “Once organized sports start up again and school, you’re going to have kids engaging in that as well. We definitely want to continue to do something but not extended until one in the morning. Well, talk to the communities we are in and see what makes sense.”

Pinkney said the plan is to see what areas of the city they can engage kids and teens in.

“The thing we have to look at there is how many people or other organizations can provide that programming on a consistent basis,” Pinkney said. “I don’t know that every week is a realistic thing for other programs to be able to come in and do that throughout the whole school year. We will see. We will try and get it as often as possible.”

Arah Anderson runs the late-night hours at the Marquette Rec Center. As a parent herself, Anderson said she sees how badly kids need events like this.

“This always needs to be here, whether it’s one kid or 100 kids,” Anderson said. “We need to be consistent with the children being here. It’s a safe space.”

Anderson said if it isn’t possible to happen weekly, she does want to see an emphasis on programs offered during breaks from school and the holidays.

Anderson said she wants to see a way for partners in the community to continue to offer consistent resources to kids.

“If you say, oh okay, we’re providing this from 6 p.m. to 1, but we’re gonna close it next month, and then a kid really needs some help, and they think about, oh, I’m going here, and then they get here, and the doors are shut,” Anderson said. “We have to be consistent. That’s what we haven’t been with the kids.”

The downtown youth party wasn’t held last weekend, but Pinkney said that event was never supposed to be long-term.

Instead, Pinkney said the downtown youth party was to find a way to connect with kids and teens who may be in need of resources and build trust with them.

″We’re really looking at how can we start to engage older kids, kids who are impacted by violence and may even get caught up in committing acts of violence,” Pinkney said. “How can we engage them.”