PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A new community center is open for kids in Portsmouth.

The Little Homies Youth Enrichment and Recreation Center is open at 2605 Elliott Ave. in Portsmouth. 

The opening marks the first minority-owned recreation and learning center in Portsmouth. 

The center includes a study hall room, computer room, STEAM room, gaming room, reading/playroom and a main gathering room.

Co-founders Eugene Swinson and Alice Edwards initially set out to build a new recreation center near the Southside neighborhood one year ago. 

“It was taking so long. We just said ‘let’s turn this into a rec center. Then we can serve two neighborhoods.'”

The idea to bring together kids from different neighborhoods like Swanson homes and Dale homes.

“There are sometimes shootings out there, sometimes during the day,” Swinson said. “It’s not as bad as it was in 2021 but it’s still a problem. The work is never-ending. We’ve just got to keep going.”

For the last two decades, Swinson said he has worked to create constant engagement with the community. The Youth Center ribbon opening comes after a successful Ballin on the River event on Saturday.

Portsmouth Mayor Shannon Glover calls the center a beacon of hope.

“It is desperately needed in our community and by our youth,” said Glover. “Within these walls, of this center friendships will be made, skills will be honed and the promising futures will be shaped.”

This dream was made possible with a mustard seed of faith along with support from Del. Don Scott and State Sen. Louise Lucas.

“This is the kind of thing that needs to happen in our community to make sure that we are ahead of crime,” Lucas said. “That’s what we’re all about.”

Several city and state leaders support this investment in students. Scott said gun violence is the number one cause of death in children, which must change.

“We need to put our children in spaces where they know they are loved, appreciated and this is a space like that,” Scott said.

Edwards added that this is just the beginning, with a groundbreaking expected in fall 2023 for a new Southside recreation center.