The Youth Study Center is relocating to West Philadelphia, and members of the Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center community advisory committee, a subcommittee of the West Philadelphia Coalition of Neighborhoods and Businesses, held a community meeting to address the concerns of the residents in the area.
The Youth Study Center is scheduled to relocate to 48th and Haverford Avenue in January.
The meeting was held Tuesday at the auditorium of St. Ignatius Nursing Home on Haverford Avenue. Residents filled the room to hear Center representatives address their concerns about having the facility in their neighborhood.
Answering their questions were Marq Temple, director of the detention center, Timene Farlow, deputy commissioner for juvenile justice services at the Department of Human Services, and Joan Williams, chair of the Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center Community Advisory Board.
Williams, who organized the meeting, said it was a good opportunity to try to resolve remaining community issues.
“I think this was a very good meeting; we had a full house and we are going to be doing this more frequently in the future,” she said.
Williams said she was very pleased w that a significant number of those who attended the meeting volunteered for subcommittees, which would keep them engaged in the process.
Lee Tolbert, president of the Coalition, said the organization had engaged the city very early in the planning stages of the relocation of the detention center and worked very closely with the Department of Health and Human Services to help improve the development and programs that will be implemented there.
Temple also said it was a great meeting.
“This is an opportunity for us to engage (with the community) a little further,” he said. “We are (in) advanced stages, we are almost moving in now, and so I think we are beyond a lot of questions and now we are into a lot of safety and security questions.”
And there were plenty of those.
Residents raised questions about how the facility will ensure against escape, how members of the community will be alerted should such an escape occur and also what job opportunities will be available for those living in the area.
“These folks are our customers,” Temple said. “You have welcomed us into your community, and it is our job to maintain and provide that safety and security.”
He said he believed there was a noticeable comfort about the relocation for those who attended the meeting.
“I think they are relaxing a little more,” he said. “There is still a little tension, and that should be there. You’re talking about a detention facility coming right into the heart of a residential community.”
Jesse Chouse, 74, said he had fought the relocation of the Youth Study Center unsuccessfully for five years and came to the meeting to hear updates about the plans.
“We didn’t need the Youth Study Center in our community, not on 48th and Haverford,” he said. “I know what the Youth Study Centers are – it’s a mini-prison for young people who break the law. It’s as simple as that.”
Chouse listed increase in traffic, visitors to the center, and the arrival of unwanted food vendors as problems.
“We have a residential area here that has been changed and I don’t like it,” he said.