LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The city of Little Rock announced on Monday it received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to help combat violence in the city.
The three-year grant will assist with the relationship between Stephens Elementary, LRPD, and the surrounding Stephens neighborhood. Money will go towards better meeting students’ needs, particularly behavioral health services and interventional services related to violence.
“To provide the resources to the community to focus on youth engagement but also programming to ensure our youth do not live a life of crime,” Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said.
The grant will expand programming at Stephens Community Center and provide for more social workers.
“And so when we put in these wrap-around services it helps them to achieve,” Mayor Scott said.
The grant will go specifically towards Stephens Elementary to address the area because Mayor Scott said it is one of the higher crime-ridden parts of the city.
Wendell Moten has lived in the area for 40 years and says Stephens has a reputation.
“It’s pretty tough around here man, it’s pretty tough. You have to mind your business around here,” Moten said.
Moten has two grandsons attending Stephens Elementary and he uses a lot of the programs the Community Center offers.
He admitted he’s been to prison in the past and hopes to be able to show his grandsons they don’t have to turn to a life on the streets and the programming will help spark change in kids.
“It always helps to give a child something to do besides run the street. You get 10, 11 years old they get set in their ways, there ain’t no changing that kid no 10, 11 he has been doing this for 10, 11 years already. You got to catch them while they’re young,” Moten said.
Moten thinks every little bit helps but said there won’t be any changes to things in the near future as the culture of the area is too engrained in many kids.
He said many of the older folks in the area want to help but it’s going to take some time and effort if people want genuine change.
“It’s the hood, the hood don’t change, just the people. I mean you can save anything, you just have to put forth the effort to save it,” Moten explained.
Mayor Scott is hopeful this grant will be the shot in the arm the area needs to begin turning things around.
“When we hear from the community, we want to provide those dollars to the community so this is a direct result of listening to the community,” Mayor Scott said.
Mayor Scott also said his office is trying to assist the area which is deemed both a food and banking desert. He hopes the addition of a grocery store to serve the area and a bank will help spark change also.