One does not have to look far to see the degenerative state of many inner city African-Americans Communities. Crime, violence, dysfunctional families, illiteracy, incarceration and death have become the norm while employment, safety, strong family support, quality education, and an enhance quality of life are aspirations that lie dormant in the subconscious of many of the clients we serve. The fundamental question that must be asked is “Can We Do Better?” Kush Inc. adamantly believes that we can and is determined to lead the way by empowering safety /security and gang intervention/prevention teams throughout the Nickerson Gardens Housing Development; implementing youth development and job development programs, and organizing community events and social outings for the parents and at-risk-youth of the Nickerson Gardens. We are confident that these programs, activities, and events will substantially decrease much of the negativity that goes on daily in this community and in turn, provide positive opportunities for the residents to take advantage of.
Kush Incorporated is a non-profit organization (501)( c) ( 3) founded by individuals from the Nickerson Gardens Housing Development in Watts. Kush has been operating for the past 2 years particularly, focusing on curtailing gang violence. Several of the founders of Kush were instrumental in negotiating the truce between rival gangs in the Watts Housing Developments and are on the front lines daily helping to quell gang violence and anti social behavior in the Nickerson Gardens and other parts of Watts.
Our primary Goal is to ensure that safety and security is provided for the residents of the Nickerson Gardens. We will accomplish our goal by reducing gang violence among active gang members, (Intervention) encouraging teenagers and young adults to not participate in gang related and motivated activities (Prevention) and by offering positive alternatives to gang violence (i.e.) Mentoring, Tutoring, Life Skills, Youth Development, Community Re-Entry Programs, Job Training, Social Outings, and Community Events.
Kush Inc. resolves to accomplish its goals and the following objectives will help us quantifiably measure our progress.
• To strengthened our security and peacekeeping team that patrols the Nickerson Gardens by 50%
• To reduce the internal/external gang violence in the Nickerson Gardens by 20%
• To reduce the number of teenagers and young adults involved in gang activity in the Nickerson Gardens by 20%
• To increase the number of teenagers/young adults who participate in our mentoring program by 25%
• To increase the number of teenagers/young adults who participate in our youth development program by 25%
• To increase the number of young adults who participate in our community re-entry program by 25%
• To increase the number of monthly social outings we take our clients on by 25%
• To increase the number of monthly community events by 25%
• To increase the number of our clients who graduate from high school by 25%
• To increase the number of our clients who go to college or vocational training school by 25%
The following performance measures will help us determine how successful we are with accomplishing our goals and objectives
• To the extent that our security and peacekeeping team is strengthened by 50%
• To the extent that internal/external gang related and motivated activity in the Nickerson Gardens is reduced by 20%
• To the extent that 20% of the active teenager/young adults are no longer actively involved in gang related or motivated activity
• To the extent that there is a 25% increase in the number of at-risk-teenagers actively involved in our mentoring program
• To the extent that there is a 25% increase in the number of at-risk-teenagers/young adults actively involved in our Youth Development Program
• To the extent that the participation in our community re-entry program is increased by 25%
• To the extent that social outings with our clients are increased by 25%
• To the extent that community events are increased by 25%
• To the extent that 25% of our clients graduate from high school
• To the extent that 25% of our clients go to college or vocational training school.
Currently, Kush isn’t receiving any funding to successfully accomplish its goals. The resources that have been used in the past to support the work have come from a city contract (funding expired) while others have come from private donors, and founding members of the organization. However, effort is being made to reach out to additional donors and foundations to ensure that our target community is being served. The following are some of the things we hope our potential investor(s) consider:
• The need for the service
• The challenges providing the services
• The lack of resource committed to fund this work
• The alarming crisis many of our young people face daily in the Nickerson Gardens
• The enormous level of hopelessness and despair among our clients
• The need for a long term financial commitment to enhance the services being provided
• The need for people and institutions to get involved in any manner they deem necessary
The Need for the Service
Urban America has continued to be plagued by gangs, drugs, crime and violence and our service area is no exception. According to LAPD crime statistics, there has been a 650% increase in the homicide rate from June 2005 to August 2005. During the same time period there were increases in the number of shots fired, (11%) and victims of these violent acts (57%). More than likely, these acts were gang related or motivated which speaks to the need of comprehensive safety and security team as well as a gang prevention and intervention program, youth development, community events and social outings that “specifically measure progress.”
The Challenges Providing the Services
The Nickerson Gardens is the biggest housing development in the U.S. with about 1,500 families who reside in this area. Most of the violence and lawlessness has been passed on from generation to generation. To many of the residents, it is business as usual because they have become desensitize to the violence. This kind of thinking will be the most challenging to overcome. Our job is to change this level of thinking by providing services that meet people where they are and challenge them to evolve to a higher level of thinking and living. It’s a daunting task; however, it would be totally naïve to think that these challenges will disappear without a committed effort. Kush Inc. resolves to provide the effort needed to help change the quality of life for our clients in this service area.
The Lack of Resources To Fund The Work
Currently, City of Los Angeles, (City Development Department LA Bridges II) gives about 2.2 million dollars to roughly 12 organizations to provide gang intervention services for Los Angeles. Kush Inc. currently doesn’t receive any of those resources mainly because of the bureaucracy; however, while servicing this community, one of the things that we noticed is that people don’t care how much you know or have, until they know how much you care. This work requires genuine compassion and in some cases, that compassion must be expressed in financial support. It’s almost impossible to have the impact we envision without committed financial support.
The Alarming Crisis Our Clients Face Daily
Imagine living in a neighborhood where attending middle school means you will be assaulted, harassed, robbed, shot at or threatened daily by teens who believe you are their enemy because you live in another housing development. Furthermore, imagine not being able to go to your local high school because it sits right next to a housing projects that house a perceived rival gang that refuses to let you attend school without intimidating, assaulting, robbing, or even murdering you. Moreover, imagine not being able to go to any high school within a seven- mile radius of your community because similar challenges exist. Our clients experience this daily. It’s clear why they are performing below the national average in reading, writing, science and math, because their primary concern is safety, not education. This is a generational trend that must end and Kush Inc. is at the forefront to ensure that this cycle continue to deny our young their fundamental right to a quality education.
The Enormous Level of Hopelessness and Despair
Many our clients and young adults come from broken homes where their parent(s) are deceased, incarcerated, strung out on drugs or, just don’t play any role in their lives. Many of these people have given up which is reflected in the daily lifestyle choices they make. Over 25 percent of our teenaged clients has experienced incarceration, and are currently on probation. Our young adult population post similar numbers. The founding members of Kush Inc. are looked upon as Fathers and Mother figures, mentors, and the vanguards for a better way of life. Kush represents the hope and light that many of our young people believe don’t exist and they have come to rely on us for guidance and support.
The Need for A Long Term Financial Commitment
The challenges associated with this service area didn’t start neither will they end with this generation; however, there has not been a focus and committed effort to ensures that resources are continuously provided to help meet our challenges. This is why your support is needed. We have made much progress establishing relationships with the community and getting buy in from parents, young adults and teenagers. We just need investors to support our vision and together we will change this community for the better.
The Need for People and Institutions To Get Involved
Kush Inc. is not suggesting that the only way we can be effective is by accessing funding to facilitate our work. Throughout the last several months, organization have come to our community and made a profound difference in our young people lives and helped to shift the perception they have about their community. We encourage people and institutions to continue to share with our community the gifts that they have so that we can be inspired and appreciative of the genuine compassion of our fellow human beings. This truly takes our work to another level because it broadens every one’s perception on what challenged urban communities are really about, not what you read in the newspapers, or see on the news; and in turn, people see the human side of our community, which is often overshadowed by the excessive violence and crime. Although Kush will operate in the community on a daily basis, we do not have the capacity to service the entire community so the help of others is greatly needed.
Kush Inc. aspires to set the precedent for how services must be provided in challenged urban communities to truly effect change. Our Goals are clear in that we believe that security and safety, gang prevention/intervention, youth development, community re-entry, job development, community events, and social outings are fundamental areas that must be funded if we are to reduce this negative trend of hopelessness and despair in the Nickerson Gardens Housing Development. In addition, we are aware that goals must be measured so we have clear objectives outlining the percentage increases we expect to achieve along with performance measures that will hold us accountable to our goals and objectives.
We sincerely look forward to establishing this relationship with you. So welcome to the often arduous, yet fulfilling challenge of ‘Effecting Change” in challenged urban communities.
Chief Operating Officer