Gardena is a small but dynamic city in Los Angeles County with a reputation for taking risks and making positive changes. Once a home for farming and known as the berry-growing capital of Southern California, it is now referred to as the “Freeway City” because of its proximity to three main freeways.
The city is in a state of change, shedding policies that no longer serve it and investing in services that benefit the community. Gardena is committed to reflecting on past mistakes, failures, and challenges while focusing on community growth and creating more opportunities for the future.
Emergency Services Division
For 40 years, the Emergency Services Division (ESD) in Gardena has been providing families access to a food pantry, case management services, homeless services, and youth and family programming. When the pandemic hit, it brought about new challenges for young people, specifically an increase in suicide rates. As a result, the ESD has committed to investing in youth by building new programs and partnerships in the following areas:
The City of Gardena has increased services for all populations, reduced mental health stigma, and increased youth programs and events in collaboration with stakeholders.
Gardena Juvenile Justice and Intervention Program
The Gardena Police Department founded the Gardena Juvenile Justice and Intervention Program (GJJIP) in May 2015 after monitoring many youths cited for misdemeanor offenses. The police department identified that youth would benefit from restorative services such as case management, service planning, life skills workshops, and community referrals rather than punishments such as harsh fines and court procedures. Since its inception, GJJIP has provided 746 youth, ages 11-17, with alternatives to suspensions, expulsions, and criminal records. In collaboration with the police department, school district, and community-based organizations, GJJIP aims to treat the underlying needs of at-risk youth and create a pathway away from the criminal justice system.
GJJIP serves at-risk youth facing stresses such as financial insecurity, negative family dynamics, and substance abuse that often lead to harmful coping mechanisms such as substance abuse, gang activity, and crime. GJJIP and its partners offer resources, workshops, and life skills classes to help youth and their caregivers make positive decisions.
Numerous success stories of youth who completed the program involve those who have turned away from gang involvement, finished high school, pursued continuing education, and entered the workforce.
Response to Low Voter Turnout
Despite changes to state regulations to encourage youth participation in elections, Gardena’s voter turnout remained low. In response, the city established programs to engage and educate youth and promote their civic participation. Programs were designed to instill civic engagement, inclusiveness and equity, collaboration, and innovation to create a shared vision that includes the community’s needs.
The City of Gardena aims to increase voter turnout and community engagement through an innovative communications strategy and the continued development of programs that promote civic involvement.