In the Westlake/Pico Union areas just west of downtown Los Angeles, Gangs are pervasive and intimidating and drug-dealing is commonplace. Los Angeles Police Department 2005 statistics show our local Rampart Division reporting more aggravated assault, theft and narcotics arrests of juveniles than in other divisions of the Central Bureau. Among adults, local arrests were also highest for aggravated assault, robbery, rape and drunkenness; and were on a par with Central Division for highest numbers of violations of narcotics laws. These statistics apply to the area immediately surrounding Casa de Amigos—where hundreds of children live with few after-school alternatives to like on the unsafe streets.
At 33,790 individuals per square mile, population in Rampart Division is twice that of other parts of Los Angeles. The three census track areas surrounding Casa de Amigos show the following racial breakdown in 2000: Hispanic -67 percent; non-Hispanic White – 6 percent; African American – 9 percent; and Asian-21 percent. Children and youths make up 32 percent of the population. Parents many of whom are immigrants with poor English language skill, frequently must work more than one low-paying job to provide for their families. Consequently, many children have no supervision when they leave school. In addition, these extremely low-income children have little access to programs that provide recreation. tutoring and mentoring.
Casa de Amigos principally serves young people attending neighborhood public schedule
- Union Avenue Elementary
- Commonwealth Elementary
- Berendo Middle School
- Virgil Middle School
- Belmont high School
These schools consistently rank among the lowest ten percent in the state (with the exception of Commonwealth, which ranks among the lowest 50 percent) on the California Department of Education’s Academic Performance Index (API), which is based on students’ standardized test scores. The 2001 API reports for each of these schools also indicate that more than 85 percent of students can be categorized as “socio-economically disadvantaged.” This category includes students who participate in the Free or Reduced Lunch Program and students who indicate that neither parent graduated from high school. This data gives evidence of the serious need in this community for after-school support programs like Casa de Amigos to help our youth stay focused on school and avoid the temptations of gangs and drugs.