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Roseland CeaseFire awaits funding

Bob Jackson has kept CeaseFire’s Roseland office open since August of 2007, when he and his staff of 15 outreach workers were laid off after Governor Blagojevich vetoed $6.5 million in state funds for the violence prevention program.

He’s paid rent and utilities, mainly out of his pocket, running a one-person office on West 111th Street, with assistance from some former CeaseFire workers and community members who volunteer when they can. But it’s a far cry from working with a full staff — and he’s watched violence rates go back up with frustration.

Now he says the office is too far in debt, the landlord has given his final extension, and they’re going to have to close down.

Meanwhile state funding was restored in July — it just hasn’t been released to the organization yet, said Tio Hardiman of CeaseFire Chicago. He said he couldn’t account for the four-month holdup, but hopes the funding will be forthcoming soon.

In 2004 a major new state appropriation allowed CeaseFire to triple the number of communities it served with public education campaigns, intensive work with the most at-risk youth, and street workers intervening to prevent violence.

A Northwestern University study (pdf) found decreases in shootings and homicides as high as 24 percent in areas served by CeaseFire compared to comparable communities without the group’s presence. Blagojevich’s veto forced the closing of 16 CeaseFire sites in the city and others from East St. Louis to Waukegan.

But Jackson wouldn’t quit. The Roseland office was one of the most successful, he says. Home to the two police beats with the highest rates of shootings and homicides in the city, the staff started bringing those numbers down in the nine months they operated before the layoffs, Jackson said. Since the loss of full-scale operations, the number of shootings has gone up by 68 percent in those two beats, he said.

“They were able to get [violence] down when nobody else could,” Hardiman said of the Roseland office. There are other agencies, but when they go home at night, “we’re working with these guys on the street at two in the morning….

“We were working with a hundred high-risk youth in that community regularly — I mean every day,” he said. “That’s how you get shootings and homicides down.”

Jackson still gets calls from principals and relatives of victims of violence. “How can you tell them no?” he said. He keeps the office open and talks to kids on the street and in schools. Family members asked him to help mobilize an anti-violence rally next Wednesday at 63rd and Laflin, where the shooting death of two teens on November 6 pushed the city’s homicide rate over last year’s.

“It’s very frustrating because we were making a difference,” he said. “This is bigger than politics. Lives are more important than politics.”

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Category: Roseland, state budget, violence

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