We mentor, monitor and minister to high-risk youth and the community so that youth may avoid violence, achieve literacy and gain access to jobs.
The Ella J. Baker House is a non-profit, community-based organization created by the Azusa Christian Community, and led by Reverend Eugene F. Rivers, 3d. We were the cover for Newsweek’s June 1998 article “God vs. Gangs” about the impact of faith-based organizations on stemming youth violence.
Since 1988, we have provided direct service to thousands of high-risk youth and their families by working and living in Dorchester’s Four Corners neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts. We have developed creative strategies and partnerships to serve the pressing needs of our neighbors and clients. We combine a settlement-house-style community youth center with direct outreach in the streets, courts and correctional facilities.
The Baker House serves all youth and their families, regardless of religious belief or church-affiliation.
Created in the early 80’s as a Harvard student organization, the Azusa Christian Community based itself in the Four Corners section of Dorchester, Boston in 1988. The neighborhood was young, black and Latino, poor, and violent. The work of the Azusa Christian Community led to the development of the Boston Ten-Point Coalition, the National Ten-Point Leadership Foundation and Operation 2006. Through these initiatives, we have been cited as a key player in the reduction of youth violence in Boston during the late 1990’s.
By 1995 the Azusa Christian Community renovated a 100-year-old Victorian house in the heart of Four Corners, a formerly fire-damaged “crack house”. The house, named in honor of the Civil Rights organizer, serves as the sanctuary for the Azusa Christian Community and the base of Baker House operations.
- Being there: substituting responsible adults for the neighborhood thug/drug dealer as role models for kids
- Sanctuary: a safe, orderly and clean haven from violence and other negative environmental pressures
- Opposing the culture that celebrates ignorance and violence
- Zero tolerance for violence; we will support law enforcement’s suppression of violent offenders.
- Holistic approach: looking at the youth’s entire situation, their assets and liabilities, and connecting with the youth’s parent/guardian, teacher, probation officer and other key figures in the youth’s life.
- Operation 2006 reduces juvenile violence through faith community and law enforcement agency collaboration. Baker House staff, law enforcement personnel, clergy and lay volunteers share street-level information on the activities and culture of high-risk youth. The most at-risk youth are then met with the message: “violence will not be tolerated in the City of Boston, we are here to provide you with alternatives, it is your decision”.
- Year-round mentoring, case management, court and school advocacy to high-risk youth: (a) youth on probation referred by the Court; (b) kids that regularly come to the Drop-in/Home Help Center and Computer Lab. This work involves over 300 kids a year. Plus presentations to groups at schools and Dept. of Youth Services centers, reaching thousands of young people each year.
- Summer programs: Academic Sports Camp (70-80 kids) and Science Literacy Camp (30 kids); “X-Ops”, a summer outreach program for high-risk young reaching over 1,700 through basketball competitions.
- Coordinating a growing roster of ministers and commissioned lay workers doing Thursday night home visits with the local police. The Baker House’s coordinator is the Police Department’s key contact for coordinating with more than 30 home visitors.
- Helping young adult offenders re-enter the community from jail onto a positive path – 200 cases a year. Some become part of our outreach team doing presentations at schools and youth correctional facilities, reaching over thousands of youth. The younger kids listen to our team.
- Weekly strategy meetings at Baker House for clergy, law enforcement and youth serving agencies in Four Corners to review “hot spots” and what needs to be done.
- We continue to be deeply involved in strategy discussions with City officials and community agencies about new initiatives and strengthening proven anti-violence and anti-gang collaborations.
What We’ve Learned:
We are proud to be one of the lead organizations Mayor Menino calls on for help. We have been called effective, knowledgeable and dependable. Here is what we have learned over the years:
- The threat persists. The problem does not go away. There are forces pulling the kids onto the wrong track. Vigilance and effort must be maintained.
- Our faith perspective keeps us going. We pray as though everything depends on God and we work as though everything depends on us.