Five young people were involved in an argument that started over a girl at Wellington United Church of Christ, 615 W. Wellington Ave., where the youth and health services center operates, Howard Brown general counsel Michelle Wetzel told South East Lake View Neighbors at a Monday meeting.
The Howard Brown-affiliate's director, Imani Rupert, called police because mulitple people were involved, Wetzel said. By the time police arrived, the center's staff had broken up the fight and told the youth they were banned from the center for a while, she said.
They told all the young people that drop-in services — which allow youths to get a free meal, hang out with their friends, make phone calls, etc. — would be canceled for the rest of the week. Drop-in hours are typically all weekdays but Wednesday, from noon to 3 p.m.
The hope is that some peer pressure from people who weren't in the fight will promote better behavior, she said.
"There are consequences we want the young people to see when things like that happen," Wetzel said.
Nobody was hurt aside from minor scratches, Rupert said. Staff still will be working during the day for additional training on crisis intervention and to remind any youth who show up "that this is a consequences of actions," Wetzel and Rupert said.
Neighbors are watching Broadway Youth Center this year, as the center's special-use permit to operate in the church only lasts until next March. The social services agency faced considerable opposition when seeking the permit from neighbors who feared rising crime and demanded accountability from the center for its clients' behavior.
The permit's end date gives the center a trial period to be a good neighbor, part of the compromise of the approval.
In addition to canceling drop-in services this week, the center expanded the territory it monitors surrounding the church. Volunteers and staff now walk on Wellington from Broadway to Clark Street, Waterloo Court and the alley behind Wellington Avenue to make sure there's no loitering, Wetzel said.
The monitors have two shifts, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
More people monitor around 3 p.m., when drop-in services end, Wetzel said, and monitors are sticking around Wellington and Broadway to make sure young people who arrive by the Broadway bus do not linger outside.
The monitors now wear identification tags, but soon they also will wear bright pink vests that say "Broadway Youth Center," so neighbors can flag them with questions, Wetzel said.
And as the weather heats up, Wetzel assured neighbors that the number of volunteers and staff will be adjusted according to any increase in activity.
"We're prepared," she said.