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Heinz Endowments funds a new youth center in Downtown Pittsburgh

Three high school students hang out after school in Market Square in Downtown Pittsburgh
An-Li Herring
90.5 WESA
During the school year, many students congregate downtown before taking Pittsburgh Regional Transit buses home.

While concerns persist about the dwindling popularity of Pittsburgh’s Downtown neighborhood, local foundations aim to boost the desirability of the area by establishing a new gathering space for young people.

Headquartered Downtown itself, the POISE Foundation says on its website that it distributes philanthropic funds to programs that empower members of the region’s Black community and promote self-sufficiency.

The POISE Foundation plans to facilitate the opening of a Downtown Youth Enrichment Center with the support of a $350,000 grant from The Heinz Endowments, according to a statement Thursday from The Heinz Endowments.

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The Alliance for Police Accountability, which has been prominent in the local Black Lives Matter movement, will partner with the POISE Foundation to open the center.

“Our youth are being bused Downtown as a throughway to get home from school,” said Brandi Fisher, the alliance’s president and CEO. “And so, we want to be a hub, a safe place for young people to come.”

“The center also is intended to address concerns from youth, parents and Downtown stakeholders about the lack of safe and positive gathering spaces for young people,” The Heinz Endowments added in its announcement of the grant.

Middle and high school students tend to congregate in and around shops and eateries in the Golden Triangle because they have few other options, Fisher noted. “And businesses see that as loitering."

Once it opens in June or July, the new youth center will be free to teens of all ages between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. The Alliance for Police Accountability will also form a youth debate team and educate young people on community organizing. It runs annual field trips and plans this summer to take students to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C.

The grant for the youth center is one of 62 awards The Heinz Endowments unveiled Thursday. Totaling $11 million, the funding addresses issues ranging from food insecurity and education to housing and environmental health, according to the endowments.

Center of Life, in Hazelwood, received the largest award: $600,000 for outreach and education programs for children and adults.

A more extensive description of the grantees appears on The Heinz Endowments’ website.

WESA has previously received funding from The Heinz Endowments.