Grant helps North Miami Beach-based gang outreach program
A donation from the North Miami Beach police department helps keep a gang prevention nonprofit’s doors open.
PanZOu Project, a North Miami Beach-based outreach program for gang members and at-risk youth in the Haitian community, will be able to continue its services on a modified scale thanks to a donation from the city’s police department.
Funding from a $2.5 million grant from the office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention ended on Sept. 30, forcing executive director Laura Kallus to lay off 14 employees — some of whom were former or transitioning gang members.
The program is currently operating with a full-time family support specialist, a part-time outreach worker and Kallus.
At a recent meeting, the North Miami Beach City Council unanimously approved a $75,000 donation to the organization through the police department’s Law Enforcement Trust Fund, made up of seized money and property.
“We’re taking the same money we took from criminals to invest in a worthy cause,” said North Miami Beach Police Chief Rafael Hernandez Jr.
The city’s donation will make it possible to rehire one outreach specialist and contract a grant writer.
“I need to use this money to bring in money otherwise, in a few months, we’ll be back in the same situation,” Kallus said.
Even with the additional staff, PanZOu will no longer be able to offer services to many of its clients. PanZOu will continue to handle 15 of its 93 current cases.
Those cases include youth who are gang members or have direct exposure to gang-related activities.
As of Wednesday, PanZOu will only accept 11 new cases that fall under these high-risk factors.
Former and transitioning gang members who are not considered to be high risk have been referred to other agencies around Miami-Dade, Kallus said.
Among those fired is Kevin Robiou, a former gang member and up until recently PanZOu’s manager for T-shirt orders.
He still drops by regularly to answer phones and complete administrative duties.
“I know I’m not getting paid for it, but I just want to keep off the streets,” he said. “If you’re around positive people, you do positive things.”