The Jacksonville Journey has a shorter name along with increased funding. An oversight committee decided Thursday the crime-prevention initiative will now be called the Jax Journey.
The Journey began in 2009 to fund programs for at-risk kids and ex-criminal offenders. Shortly afterward, its funding decreased amidst the economic recession. But Mayor Lenny Curry boosted the Journey budget by about $3 million this year, with a total budget of around $5 million. Of that, a little over half is already spoken for by contracted agencies including Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and Teen Court.
About $2.3 million is a contingency fund. Journey Project Director Debbie Verges says it’s up to her committee to recommend to City Council how the rest should be spent.
“I’m just excited to see that there is excitement,” Verges says. “You can see we have a number of engaged board members that are very interested in learning. And they’re really ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work.”
The Committee plans to do that by commissioning a return-on-investment study. She says she expects contractor bids to do the study by the middle of next month. Verges says it’s a chance to find out if the previous Journey programs are still effective.
“What Jacksonville looked like eight years ago when we began the Journey may be different than what we need to do now,” she says.
City Councilman Sam Newby is also on the committee. He’s drafting a bill to spend about a quarter-million dollars of Journey funding on “Project L.E.A.P,” a program to fund Jacksonville Library outreach efforts. Verges says those services range from educating people about GED programs to children’s programs.
“It’s really an outreach program to bring people into various public libraries so they can take part in the services the library has,” she says.
During city budget hearings the library asked for outreach funding but was denied it.
The next Jax Journey meeting is November 12. Mayor Curry will attend and is expected to share his vision for the initiative.