published Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Community leaders working to reduce violence

IF YOU GO

Several events focused on alleviating violence have been scheduled since more than a dozen shootings, including four fatalities, occurred in Chattanooga in March.

* Boys Inc. mentoring group, which targets middle- and high-school-age boys, will meet at 5:30 p.m. today at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library branch downtown.

* Chattanooga Endeavors will host a two-part conference for churches that want to network to assist prisoners and their families. The goal is to create social bonds that reduce recidivism for prisoners. The first meeting, “Focus on the Prisoner,” is at St. Jude Catholic Church, 930 Ashland Terrace, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The second meeting, “Focus on the Family,” is at the church from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. May 7. RSVP to info@stephenstable.net or 423-266-1888.

* The Unity Group will meet at 7:30 p.m. May 1 at Second Missionary Baptist Church, 2305 E. Third St. The group plans to discuss an action plan to reduce neighborhood violence.

A month after black ministers and leaders met on the steps of Chattanooga City Hall to speak out against violence and call on employers to hire felons who used to be in gangs, at least two employers have agreed to give jobs to former gang members, officials say.

In the past two months, 23 people have been shot and seven were killed. Since then, churches also are organizing “Stop the Violence” events, and male mentoring groups are recruiting youths from across the city.

“The community is rising together to tackle the problem of youth violence,” said Missy Crutchfield, administrator of the city’s Department of Education, Arts and Culture. “We’re seeing pastors and leaders step forward.”

Community leaders say Taco Bell hired one former gang member and Chattanooga Public Works hired another.

But that’s just a small start, said Tim Dempsey, CEO of Chattanooga Endeavors, a nonprofit that helps felons get jobs.

“What we really need is people to make actual jobs available, not to say they are friendly to offenders but to hire them,” Dempsey said.

“Those are our heroes,” Dempsey said. “Our employers do more to reduce the crime rate in Chattanooga than [everybody] else combined. We can have summit after summit, resolution after resolution, but people have to open doors and give [felons] a chance in the work force.”

As part of the “Stop the Violence” movement, the Unity Group, a group of black political leaders and ministers, will meet May 1 at Second Missionary Baptist Church to develop an action plan to reduce neighborhood violence.

“The Unity Group wants to begin the process of completing a strategy and finding resources to improve the existing condition,” spokesman Quenston Coleman said.

Club Fathom on Market Street is planning a “Stop the Violence” concert for early this summer, said Tim Reid, head pastor of Mosaic Church. Club Fathom is an outreach ministry of the church.

The concert was initially scheduled for April, but the main act, rapper Gucci Mane, is in jail in Atlanta after violating his probation by being charged with assault.

The church is also hosting Sunday worship services focused on alleviating youth violence, Reid said.

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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