Groundbreaking youth participatory budget program designates $500,000 to support teens, young adults
August 2, 2023 | By Christopher Keizur | Originally Published in the Gresham Outlook
Local youths spent the last few months convening on ways to best spend a pot of money to help their peers during a first-ever budgeting method within Oregon.
Nearly 800 young people from across the region voted from May 15 to July 15 on a series of projects, generated by those same youths. The result was earmarking hundreds of thousands of dollars for youth job training, affordable housing, hygiene access and more.
In July, the projects that won a portion of $500,000 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars, set aside by lawmakers in Salem, were announced. Spurred by nonprofit Participatory Budgeting Oregon, “Youth Voice, Youth Vote” was for young people ages 13 to 25 to discuss, generate ideas, and ultimately use the money to improve their communities.
The teens and young adults hailed from Gresham, Troutdale, Wood Village, Fairview, East Portland, and rural Multnomah and North Clackamas Counties.
In total five projects were selected. They centered on bringing more support to youths through job training, affordable housing, hygiene projects, and more. The winning projects were:
Young Professionals: $100,000
The project will pay youths to get the skills and experience they need. Youths will have the chance to explore multiple career options, while learning from professionals. In addition to being compensated, youths will gain work experience.
Summer Job Fair: $100,000
The project creates a job fair for the spring of 2024. There will be local organizations seeking employees, as well as help on paperwork and how to prepare for an interview.
Youth Housing/Rental Assistance: $100,000
A resource fair for college students and working youths ages 13-25 years old who need access to affordable housing and rent assistance. Attendees will be connected with organizations who offer housing assistance, hotel vouchers and other options for temporary shelter. Schools and community partners will help identify youths to benefit from the resources. Priority will be for those who identify as LGBTQ+, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), or with disabilities.
Menstrual/Hygiene Products: $100,000
The project will provide free personal care items to youths not covered by SNAP benefits like pads and tampons, bath and hygiene essentials, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, and baby supplies. School volunteer clubs will package supplies and distribute them.
Youth Art Collective: $100,000
The creation of a community club for youth artists from October 2023-2024. They will be able to support each other’s art, collaborate on projects, share meals, organize an exhibition, go on field trips, and meet with guest artists.
The outing was a way to test drive the participatory budgeting process in Oregon, which is when community members have a direct say in how to spend portions of a public budget. In the past the concept has been bandied within the city of Gresham as a possible way to guide parks and recreation funding.
The ARPA funds were committed to this program by Sen. Kayse Jama, Sen. Chris Gorsek and Rep. Ricki Ruiz. Both Gorsek and Ruiz attended the unveiling of the winning projects at Gresham’s Nadaka Nature Park, 17615 N.E. Glisan St.
“Youth Voice, Youth Vote” was supported by East County Rising Community Projects, Participatory Budgeting Oregon, Play Grow Learn, The Rosewood Initiative, and Unite Oregon.