Nearly 120 CeaseFire workers are hitting the streets as part of an effort to reduce the epidemic of violence currently gripping Chicago. Thanks to stopgap funding from the state of Illinois, CeaseFire has re-established operations in 19 communities on Chicago’s South, West and North sides for the first time since a funding cut in March 2015.
Working in partnership with nine Chicago community organizations, CeaseFire Illinois has received more than $4 million from the state to put specially trained public health workers to work in the communities where the majority of this year’s 728 homicides and 3,397 shootings have occurred. CeaseFire workers complete a 40-hour training program before going into the community to put the program’s methods of local violence interruption and community behavior change to work. The interrupters and other outreach personnel work out of established community groups and are connected to the city’s network of hospital trauma services.
In the past, CeaseFire was active in the communities it is now returning to. Third party evaluations of the program have demonstrated its effectiveness, with evaluations showing violence reductions of up to 70 percent in some communities. Since the March 2015 cut in state funding, CeaseFire’s operations were reduced from 14 communities to one, a period in which shootings and killings dramatically increased.
Chicago has already had more homicides in 2016 than in any full year over the last decade. CeaseFire staff are hopeful that the work of the newly deployed workers will help curtail this dramatic rise in violence quickly.
CeaseFire workers recruited are from the same communities they serve. Because of their knowledge and relationships in the areas of immediate need they are credible messengers who can mediate critical situations between would-be shooters and potential victims. CeaseFire’s violence interrupters utilize their insights, relation- ships, and specialized training to recruit others to also help stop violence in their own neighborhoods.
CeaseFire Program Director LeVon Stone, Sr., explained that CeaseFire workers exert a strong influence over their clients: “These young men and women come into our program and talk with people who have been living a changed life.”
CeaseFire workers have therefore recently established an ongoing presence in the following communities: Auburn Gresham, Englewood, Humboldt Park, Grand Crossing/Chatham, Humboldt Park, Hemosa, Little Village, Rogers Park, Uptown, Altgeld Gardens, Roseland, South Chicago, South Shore, Woodlawn, Chicago Lawn, Westlawn and North Lawndale.
The nine community-based organizations for the recruitment, training, hiring and monitoring processes are: Target Area Development Corporation, Alliance of Local Services Organization, ENLACE, Organizing Neighborhoods for Equality, Lilydale Outreach Workers for a Better Community, Claretian Associates, Southwest Organizing Project, LaVillita and UCAN.