A community-led coalition convened by United Way of Central Iowa has begun work to implement a comprehensive plan to reduce youth violence in central Iowa.

The Safe & Thriving Youth initiative began convening in March, bringing together subject matter experts, educators, concerned citizens and young people, city and county officials, nonprofits, and many others to discuss solutions.  

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 7.2% of the youth in central Iowa are disengaged (young people ages 16-19 who are not enrolled in school and are under-employed). Experts agree disengagement can be a key factor in youth violence, and this number appears to be on the rise in Iowa.

“We have been very pleased with the amount of energy, creativity, and engagement we have seen across this important community-led effort so far,” said Mary Sellers, United Way of Central Iowa’s President. “So far, there has been a steering committee formed, we have had two broad community convenings, and several strategic meetings of various subcommittees. We will be seeking additional partners and individuals to participate as the plan develops.”

To launch the short-term efforts of the initiative, seed funding has been provided by United Way of Central Iowa, the Mid-Iowa Health Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. The coalition will seek additional funding from local government, individuals, organizations, and others to support the longer-term community-wide plan.

The Safe & Thriving Youth initiative will harness the extraordinary leadership of those already working on solutions locally as well as examine successful youth violence mitigation strategies from other communities, engage local, regional, and national experts on the issue for their advice and direction, and seek funding for implementation of short-term and long-term action items.