MINNEAPOLIS — Hennepin County is using pandemic emergency response funds to try to reduce violent crime.
The county will award a total of $10 million in grants to local organizations that specialize in violence prevention. The grants have ranged from around $8,000-$700,000 per organization, and more than half of the money has already been distributed to almost 50 different groups.
"While law enforcement and the criminal justice system are doing their work, we thought there is also room for a lot more involvement from the community," Director of Safe Communities Lisa Bayley said. "We all need to be working on this on so many different levels."
Bayley says recipients getting the most money include a partnership between Shiloh Temple and nonprofit Change Starts with Community, as well as Next Step, a program supporting violent crime survivors while they're still at the hospital.
"Once the patient is stable and the medical team has been cleared, that's when we start to establish a relationship with the patient," said Kentral Galloway, Next Step's program director at Hennepin Healthcare, one of three hospitals to offer the program.
Galloway says they also work with family members who arrive at the hospital by giving them accurate information about their loved ones' conditions and trying to talk them out of retaliation.
"Folks are showing up upset about whatever happened to their family member out in the community and sometimes want to go back out there and take care of it themselves, so we are trying to stop that recurring circle of violence," he said.
The grant money has allowed the program to hire more employees and expand the program from youth and young adults to people of all ages.
"I always hesitate when people say, 'Are you happy about the program expanding?' and I was like, 'No because that means people are out there getting hurt,'" Galloway said.
Meanwhile, North Hennepin Community College received a $50,000 grant, allowing around 20 students to take a new community violence prevention course this fall without having to pay for tuition or books.
"Our student population comes from the area where violence is a concern for many of them and a lot of them have interest in being part of the solution, not just being helpless victims," sociology professor Aspen Chen said. "One part that we still need to work better on is to bring in high school students. The young population are most exposed to the violence."
Hennepin County accepted requests for proposals from more than 100 applicants in fall 2021. This fall, officials will accept a new round of applications with plans to distribute the money early next year.
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