Chicago is in crisis. It is a pandemic no one wants to talk about. GUN VIOLENCE. In small towns and cities across our nation, gun violence is traumatizing communities and robbing children of their futures. In 2020 alone, mass shootings increased by 70%. The toll of gun violence affects black and brown communities the most. Black residents are more likely to die by gun violence 32 times more than whites. In addition, gun violence has a severe economic consequence, costing the state of Illinois over $10 billion each year.
It is a crisis that can no longer be ignored. Criminal justice reform advocates stress that decades of poverty, poor quality in education, lack of jobs, affordable housing rooted in systemic racism contribute to high rates of violence. In addition, communities experiencing large numbers of gun violence have increased trauma, stress, and even PTSD, also contributing to violence. Old models of increased policing have proven ineffective with gun violence increasing in neighborhoods across the country. Advocates say it is time to look at the root causes of violence and address the issue at the root. Law enforcement in addition to community resources, outreach, and intervention is the key to increasing public safety.
Organizations such as Heartland Alliance approach violence prevention from multiple focus areas; health and wellness, safety and justice, and economic opportunities. With the summer upon us and the state reopening, many worry about the increased gun violence in our communities. READI, which stands for, Rapid Employment and Development Initiative, is a program that believes that helping people heal from trauma and develop skills that create pathways to safety and opportunity has the potential to save lives and increase safety. This model combines cognitive behavioral therapy with paid transitional employment to help reduce violence.
Eddie Bocanegra is the Senior Director of READI Chicago. He has years of experience in community-based organizations and programs created to address trauma in communities most affected by violence. The Chicago Defender spoke with him about what can be done to address the increased violence in the City of Chicago and communities around the country.
For more information on READI Chicago, please visit their website at www.heartlandalliance.org.
Danielle Sanders is a journalist and writer living in Chicago. Find her on social media @DanieSanders20.