ROANOKE, Va. – The City of Roanoke was awarded more than half a million dollars in grants from the Department of Criminal Justice Services to address gun violence.
Councilman Joe Cobb, who serves on the city’s Gun Violence Prevention Commission, said the money has immense implications.
“Down the road, we want to see generational changes,” said Cobb.
The first grant is for $25,000 to conduct a youth and gang violence community assessment. The city will spend the next six months reaching out to kids in the community to hear their stories and what changes they’d like to see.
“From July through December of this year, we’ll be working with community partners to reach as many youth and their families as we can to assess from them, you know, what they’re experiencing, what their concerns are, what their ideas are to reduce gun violence and gang violence, and what opportunities they would like to see in the community to help better their lives,” said Cobb.
“We’re going to get really into the root of what their fears are, what their desires are, where their anger is coming from,” said Nicole Ross, another commission member. “And I think that’s going to help us as a commission to really insert some change into the community.”
The second grant is for $500,000. With that money, the city will be able to create a Gun Violence Intervention Program, focus on youth employment and education, and hire three people: a youth and gang violence prevention coordinator and two outreach workers.
100 trusted community members will also be trained in conflict resolution and de-escalation practices.
“To work with our youth to then teach these skills to our youth,” said Cobb. “Our hope is to have 25 in each quadrant of the city.”
Ross said the toughest part is knowing change will take time.
“We understand and we know that people are still going to be lost in the process,” said Ross. “And it hurts us to know that because it’s going to take time, we’re still going to lose people. And that’s the biggest challenge that we face because we don’t want to see any other lives lost.”
But Ross said it’s time to change.
“I see a change in how we do community,” said Ross. “We’re going to love harder, we’re going to work together as a group, and we’re going to support each other. We’re going to just learn how to have compassion and I think that is going to make a huge change.”