The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors today took a step closer toward realizing the vision of turning recently decommissioned Probation Camp Gonzales into a groundbreaking residential career and educational training center for young men aged 18-25. The facility will feature a live-in career training program where the participants, who have formerly been supervised by probation, involved in foster care, and/or are homeless, will have a job waiting for them upon successful completion of the program.
Los Angeles County Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda L. Solis co-authored the Board’s motion that was voted on and approved during the Board’s regular public meeting on Tuesday, May 15.
“I am extremely grateful to our partners, in County departments, in widespread communities and in philanthropy who are coming together to transform Camp David Gonzales into a professional training facility for young people who have come into contact with our foster care or probation systems or who have experienced homelessness,” Supervisor Kuehl expressed. “This groundbreaking motion represents another milestone in realizing the County’s vision to give all of our young people the support and skills they need to set them on a path to success.”
First District Supervisor Solis also anticipates great outcomes and success of the new facility.
“Supporting at-risk youth by providing services, training, and a path to a successful career is the best investment we could make,” said Supervisor Solis. “The repurposing of Camp Gonzales is one example of LA County’s movement away from incarceration towards a new focus on diversion and positive development. This new residential vocational training facility will be a complete reenvisioning of how we engage with young people who may be facing housing insecurity, or who had contact with the child welfare and/or juvenile justice systems. By building innovative partnerships between the County and community-based partners, we can provide the support and resources these young people need for long-term success. I am excited to see what the future holds for these youth!”
The proposed program at the former Camp Gonzales will include free housing, career technical training in the fields of building and construction trades (pre-apprenticeship program) or food service/culinary arts, wrap-around services, life skills training, and guaranteed job placement. For those who do not have a high school diploma, a fully accredited diploma program will be available. Students will voluntarily live on campus for five of the seven days of each week with an option to go home to their families on the weekend. The facility is also undergoing a physical transformation with the goal of looking and feeling like a college campus. Programming for young men who choose to participate in the program will be provided by nonprofits that have a track record helping thousands of young people stay away from gangs and prison and move toward healthier, more successful lives.
Greg Derisso, a young man who was at Camp Gonzales as a youth said, “I wish that something like this existed when I got out of the camp. I probably would not have gotten locked up again if I had been able to go somewhere that helped me focus, away from the distractions of the neighborhood. It would have been…easier.” Greg is now enrolled in school and receiving career training.
The planning for the project has been and will continue to be a collaborative endeavor led by the Los Angeles County Probation Department. County Departments of Chief Executive, Mental Health, Education, Public Works, Social Services, Internal Services, Workforce Development, Public Defender, Alternate Public Defender, Diversion and Reentry, County Counsel, Public Health, Children and Family Services, Child Protection, Human Resources, DPSS, Civic Partnership, and Public Works are the County agencies who have committed resources to make this project a reality. Community-based organizations, philanthropic groups and service providers such as New Earth Organization, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, and Los Angeles Trade Technical College have also been integral in the planning process and help to bring the training center’s vision into focus.
“Los Angeles County is taking a historic step toward youth justice reform by transforming a juvenile Probation Camp into a career-training center,” said Los Angeles Chief Probation Officer Terri L. McDonald. “The Board of Supervisors, the County CEO, other department heads and I recognize that investing in education and career training is a smart strategy that will help youth develop the skills needed to become contributing members of the community while improving community safety.”