St. Paul City Council questions Healing Streets program’s lack of spending

When St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and the St. Paul City Council supplemented the 2020 budget with more than $1 million last summer, $300,000 of that spending went to a program called Healing Streets, which is designed to reach at-risk kids and young adults before they commit crimes.

But at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Mark Campbell, a Healing Streets representative, said the organization had only spent a little more than $12,000 out of that $300,000 grant.

“Even though we’re behind now, we can catch up and actually spend the money,” said Campbell. "First, for obvious reasons, it’s needed — definitely, without a doubt — and then how can it be most beneficial?"

Campbell told City Council members COVID-19 restrictions had made doing the work more difficult because it’s a challenge to find the kids when they are not in school or at recreation centers, and hiring staff has been behind schedule as well.

“We know once we have staff hired, we’ll be able to chew into that budget, for the lack of a better term,” Campbell said. “But with more staff hired in the coming days, we will get into that budget more because we will have more boots on the ground.”

City Council member Rebecca Noecker told Campbell she fully supports the Healing Streets program but was also eager to see some results from the program especially since the city is seeing higher numbers of homicides and shooting injuries than this time last year.

“I have to be honestthat I feel very disappointed, and I don’t think it is just me,” Noecker said. “I am speaking on behalf of my constituents, too, and I say that we really needed this up and running long before now because there is a real need for it.”

City Council member Jane Prince told Campbell she supported Healing Streets, too, but also supported Noecker’s position that more needs to be produced from the program especially since the organization is set to get another $300,000 from the city Jan. 1.

“My neighborhoods have been really hit hard by this increase in crime, and this type of help needs to be happening now,” Prince said. “The gun violence, the kids getting their hands on guns, I mean, we needed this up and running last year and this year.”