PORTLAND, Oregon — There have been more than 100 shootings since the start of the year. Six people have been killed and more than two dozen people injured. Many of the incidents impacted the lives of Black young people who were victims or loved ones of victims in those shootings.
A program called the Community Healing Initiative is now getting more funding in Multnomah County to help those young stay out of the juvenile justice system.
"The gun violence that we have experienced in the past year or so has been devastating," said Joe McFerrin II, president and CEO of the Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center and Rosemary Anderson High School (POIC+RAHS).
POIC+RAHS is a nonprofit dedicated to helping BIPOC youth and young adults succeed through education and work training. For McFerrin, building relationships is key to combating violence.
"It’s about relationships, and through building those relationships the community feels comfortable sharing what their needs are, what your concerns are. Then we can activate," said McFerrin.
Ten years ago, POIC+RAHS teamed up with Latino Network and Multnomah County to launch the Community Healing Initiative. The program is designed to reduce disparities experienced by Black, Latino and other communities of color in the juvenile legal system.
"We really want to focus on the upstream and prevention, getting to families and youth before they hit the criminal justice system," said Erika Preuitt with the county’s department of community justice.
The initiative revolves around families affected by violence or on the cusp of being affected by violence, and provides them with resources from educational support to rent payments and whatever else families may need.
Preuitt says giving that support to families allows them to support their kids and can prevent them from entering the criminal justice system.
"I think that we come through this only in collaboration and unity and supporting each other as we face what is the virus of violence," she said.