PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Gun violence kills, injures and forever impacts many in our community, including children.
In Portsmouth last week, gunfire injured a 14-year-old, and last month, a 16-year-old was shot and killed. Now community activists are hoping to stymie the wave of violence by providing more opportunities for the city’s youth with a recreation center.
14-year-old girl injured in shooting on Edwards Street
8:06 AM, Aug 23, 2023
14-year-old girl injured in shooting on Edwards Street: Portsmouth police
Monday, Portsmouth Mayor Shannon Glover explained the opening of Little Homies Youth Enrichment and Recreation Center is a “remarkable milestone for youth empowerment.”
The new center is a symbol to the kids in the area.
“This community center is giving young black children an opportunity to grow up in an environment where they’re not afraid, where they can figure out who they are and be safe,” said 12-year-old Nyla Wimbish.
A safe community is what Big H.O.M.I.E.S. Community Outreach co-founder Eugene Swinson wanted when his team set out to open the rec center on Elliot Avenue.
“Having a central location, we can be a bigger influence in the neighborhoods,” Swinson explained.
The influence, he said, is that the space will give kids the opportunity to grow, learn and have fun together. He said he hopes this will reduce the impact of poverty or violence.
“Most of the issues aren’t gang-related, they’re neighborhood-related,” said Swinson. “And the influences in the neighborhood are a little stronger than sometimes the parent’s influence. Now, I can get kids from five or six different neighborhoods in one place on a regular basis for a long time. We own the building so we’re going to be here for a while. I think that kind of erases the lines, the petty beefs, and they start understanding they have way more in common than they do differences.”
The center is outfitted with video game rooms, playrooms and study rooms where kids will have the resources to learn more about science, technology, math and engineering. There are future plans to add an outdoor basketball court.
“I feel like they deserve this stuff. They might not get it on a regular basis, but here they will,” said Swinson.
The kids cannot wait to play and learn.
“I’m looking forward to all the children to be able to come here and be happy and be like, ‘oh here’s a place where I belong,'” said Wimbish.
Little Homies Youth Enrichment and Recreation Center opened Monday.