Non-profit organizations have a role in solving the public health crisis of gun violence
There’s a mixed sense of eye-opening wonder and clarification when you learn about something that you’ve never been exposed to before.
Coming from an ethnocentric, relatively sheltered bubble in my hometown, I was frankly stupefied when I attended a conference called “Carry the Vision” a few years ago. Led by Father Greg Boyle and facilitated by many fascinating and passionate individuals, the conference centered around building a bridge between the poor and marginalized and those with more privilege and opportunities.
Father Boyle, an unbelievably kind-hearted man whom I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with, is the founder of HomeBoy Industries.
HomeBoy Industries strives to provide rehabilitation and support systems to formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated men and women with the aim of redirecting their lives in a more positive and safe direction.
It was through this conference and Father Boyle’s inspiring work that my interest in gang violence and the inevitable gun violence that comes with it was piqued.
The hopelessness that accompanies dealing with an abusive family or a poverty-riddled lifestyle is what puts guns into the hands of youth who aren’t even old enough to understand their power.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 92 to 96 percent of gang-related homicides involved firearms, compared to 57 to 86 percent in non-gang related homicides. Although gang violence does not account for the majority of gun-related deaths, it does contribute to a portion of it, so finding ways to combat the root of the gun-related gang violence problem is absolutely relevant to a larger discussion of the topic.
HomeBoy Industries aims to do just this by reducing the effects of gun violence in large cities like Los Angeles and Chicago. The non-profit organization provides a means of education and job training for previously gang-involved individuals as alternatives to the devastating violence present in their lives.
HomeBoy offers 50 different classes for young and old people alike, giving those without high-school degrees the tools to go on and obtain their GED. Mental health, domestic violence and substance abuse support groups, as well as small but meaningful things like tattoo removal, are other powerful rehabilitation methods that HomeBoy Industries provides to those who are committed to making a change in their life.
The best part is that it’s all free. Volunteer clinicians give their time to provide psychotherapy to those traumatized at an early age by violence and loss. Substance abuse specialists engage in one-on-one meetings and counseling free of charge. Conferences, such as the one I attended, were available on a first-come, first-serve basis to those who wanted to attend.
The problem is actually getting people there. Be it fear of retribution or a fear of the unknown, many individuals often shy away from making that first step toward a better life. The only solution is to provide the means of change to these gang-involved individuals and let them make the choice of whether or not they want a more positive future.
The questions we ask are vitally important, because questions are what lead to potentially transformative answers. And the important question that HomeBoy Industries asks isn’t about gun control or legislation to help suppress gang-related crimes. The question that they ask has more to do with how we, as individual members of society, can improve the public safety and health of our country.
Gang-related gun violence is not truly a matter of the actual weapon in use. It’s really a matter of public health and an epidemic that, though easier said than done, can be cured by techniques that foster a sense of hope for the future in the form of education and work.
Written by: Tamanna Ahluwalia — firstname.lastname@example.org
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