Pico Youth & Family Center Protests to Fight Possible Closure

The roads between the Pico Youth & Family (PYFC) Center and the Santa Monica City Hall were trodden with fervent protest last Thursday. In the protest, PYFC members, families, friends and children marched with hopes of the Center’s continuance. A few passing by cars honked in support. Many protesters came with signs and drums, chanting in orchestrated cadence:

“Let PYFC thrive! Let PYFC thrive! Let PYFC thrive!”

As a non-profit organization aimed to support youths by helping low-income families and preventing youth violence for over 13 years, the PYFC has changed many lives for the better. And as they vehemently chanted, some banging their drums and kitchen pots, their passion and dedication to the Center was obvious.

According to a 2015 report by their Human Services division, the City had apportioned a one-time payment of $190,000 for PYFC on June 24, 2014, pointing the Center to self-sustainability. And in accordance with their decision, the City staff recently recommended the Center’s defunding.

However, without an annual $190,000 -- which is equal to 40% of the PYFC’s budget -- the Center will be likely to downsize their space, staff, and the number of youths they cater to; That is, if they are lucky enough to survive closure, according to the PYFC staff members. “It’s going to destroy the organization's ability to succeed into the future.” said Oscar de la Torre, president of the PYFC.

As part of the protest last Thursday, PYFC advocates also stepped inside the walls of the Santa Monica City Hall, filling the lobby, hoping to catch the eyes of the City staff members and prove how much the center meant to many. There were motivational speeches, chantings, and even a skit by Pop-Up-Teada depicting the reality of youth violence. Over the megaphone, one PYFC member proclaimed, “The rumors of a 9.8 earthquake came true today, right here in city hall” as protesters cheered, the banging of their drums ringing throughout the City Hall.

Following the protest, the families, friends, and members of PYFC joined the City council meeting, where the City staff announced their final proposal to defund the Center. Many advocates came up for testimonials during the meeting to fight the proposal.

Kaia Bailey, a recent graduate of California State University (CSUN), Northridge, was one of the individuals who came up. For the last four months, she worked with the PYFC on a research study in partnership with CSUN. “The youth shared with me stories of their resilience, and strength, and how the PYFC -- a community based program -- has met their basic needs, spiritual and creative needs, provided educational and occupational support in a culture of love and family” She said “I believe defunding the [PYFC] will be catastrophic for this community, my community, and for the youth that have marched to City Hall, here today.

Back in the lobby, many hoping for the continuance of the funding for PYFC sat watching the testimonials on the City Hall television, including Oscar de la Torre, as the City Council meeting stretched long into the night. Though disappointed, the prospect of the Center’s defunding did not hinder the supporters spirits. They watched as many individuals came up and expressed to the Council their dissents and told stories (including one spoken-word rap), cheering after every one.

The City Council's final decision to either fund or defund the PYFC will be on June 23, 2015.