INDIANAPOLIS - The City of Indianapolis announced a new summer employment initiative to create more jobs for teens.
City leaders rolled out the new employment initiative Tuesday to help give teens positive outlets and keep them from breaking the law.
"The youth we have spoken to, whether it be through my 'Your Life Matters' initiative or through one of our 'Community Conversations,' have been consistent in their message to us that there are not enough summer job opportunities," Mayor Greg Ballard said. "A summer job can provide much-needed income, structure, mentoring, and in some cases, even a meal that a young person may not otherwise get."
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Rick Hite explained the importance of giving teens something positive to do with their free time.
"The first job, the first opportunity for employment, should not be the pharmaceutical business on the corner," Hite said.
Chris from Indianapolis said he wasn’t so lucky when he was younger.
"They basically asked me to go with them on a robbery, next thing you know something went from $20 in weed money to a felony seven years," Chris said.
Now, at 25 years old, he said like many young men, he's still paying for mistakes he made as an unemployed teen.
"When I was going up, I thought I’d have the food and shelter I had with my parents, but when you turn 18, that's the hard reality that you're out on the street living off the river, jumping into dumpsters -- and a lot of people they resort to violence," he said.
"We see them out in the street, we don't want to have to arrest them for things that come down to feeding families or providing for their siblings, we want to be able to help them," Hite said.
The Department of Public Safety is giving grants to nonprofit service groups so they can employ more teens during the summer.
"We are grateful to our partners in this effort, who have been outstanding in their response to this idea and in their understanding of the need for more youth summer jobs," Public Safety Director Troy Riggs said in a statement. "This event will certainly not be the sole solution, but it will be a start and can help raise awareness of the challenges faced by some of our youth."
Organizers said the need is there, but they are still working on raising the money. So far, they have raised more than $21,000.