Westchester Youth Shelter Program Holds Benefit at Picture House


Chris Clough

Pelhamites support Westchester Youth Shelter Program benefit.

Chris Clough, Senior, Co-Layout & Graphic Design Editor

Mass incarceration is a term most have heard, but not many have given thought to. 13th, a documentary directed by Ava DuVernay, aims to change that.  The documentary was shown to nearly a full house of locals at The Pelham Picture House on September 13, and helped promote The Westchester Youth Shelter Program.

“Our mission is to remove young people from the adult system, provide services to fully rehabilitate them, and to return them to their communities as contributing members of society,” said Christian Philemon, Executive Director of the shelter.

The shelter, located in Mount Vernon, is only able to see one percent of the eligible population of offenders, simply because it is the only facility of its kind.  On average, an individual spends nine months at the shelter, and receives a full school year’s education.  In addition to rigorous academics, participants also volunteer at the Wartburg, a home for the elderly, five days a week, and have chores and activities throughout the day.

Since its founding in 1975, the Youth Shelter Program has proven its effectiveness. “Only 29 percent of our youth is re-incarcerated a year after the program,” said Philemon.  Compare that to a national average of about an 80 percent re-incarceration rate, and the results are staggering.  Furthermore, Philemon said, “99 percent of young people from the program who sit for standardized tests, such as the Regents or the GED, pass.”

The documentary is on Netflix and sheds light on one of the nation’s most prevalent problems.