New York City

Youth-serving nonprofits denounce termination of Next STEPS

The mentoring program focuses on youth in NYCHA developments that were identified in Mayor Eric Adams' Blueprint for Community Safety as the most impacted communities in the city.

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The Next STEPS Mentoring Program Coalition denounced the abrupt elimination of the Next STEPS Mentoring Program by the Department of Probation, which would impact over 200 young people in fifteen different New York City Housing Authority developments. 

On August 24, 2023, the DOP sent a letter stating the termination of contract with Next STEPS that was to be implemented on August 31st. The letter cited the reason for termination was the lack of data, among other issues. The termination of contract prompted the coalition to write a letter to DOP voicing concerns over such abrupt notice and the effects it would have on the youth being served. The letter also called for an investment in evaluation of the model. In response, some programs received an extension and are able to run until Sept. 21 with no additional funding, while others had to close immediately. 

“The huge impact here means that we're removing resources from communities that we say are the most vulnerable. That in and of itself just seems completely backwards. The communities that we say need help and resources the most are the communities that are losing our resources… As a trauma informed agency, it definitely was not trauma informed. And so it has caused us to fall into this space of abandonment, where we're abandoning young people in the program” said said Peleya Patterson, vice president of youth justice programs at Good Shepherd Services.

The Next STEPS Mentoring Program is housed by Good Shepherd and offers mentoring and community support services to youth, ages 16 to 24, who are “involved in serious violent activity, gang-affiliated, or domestic violence,” The goal of the program is to provide proper guidance and help youth identify alternative pathways.

“First we try to use the resources that we have here at Good Shepherd Services to make sure that the basic needs of our young people are met before we can begin to talk about education and employment. So it's about meeting them where they're at, making sure that foundation is solid, and then taking the next step.” Patterson told New York Nonprofit Media.  

The program started in 2014 and serves young people in East New York, Brownsville, and Gowanus. According to the Good Shepherd Services, 100% of graduating participants were able to avoid further justice involvement during FY 2023 and 100% of graduating participants were able to move on to different opportunities of employment, continuing education and other pro-social activities. 

The program meets twice a week for two hours to and follows an evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy curriculum. Youth engage in discussions with each other and also receive mentoring through the Credible Messengers model, which connects them to adults in the community who have had similar experiences. 

The Next STEPS coalition, which comprises of organizations such as Good Shepherd Services, CASES, Center for Community Altternatives, Exodus Transitional Community, The Children’s Village, Rising Ground, Community Mediation Services, the Osborne Association, RiseBoro Community Partnership and Community Connections for Youth, will be rallying at City Hall on Tuesday, September 12th to call for the reinstatement of funding for this program. 

“It's a space where young people are able to be vulnerable. It's a space for learning and growing, it's a space for us staff to help guide and protect young people. It's just a space where it's like home. It's like family” said Patterson.