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'It's about saving some lives': St. Louis violence prevention program expands

Thanks to funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, $5.5 million dollars will be used for violence intervention programs in St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS — A violence prevention program in St. Louis will be able to continue its work in the community.

This is all thanks to funds from the American Rescue Plan Act

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones' office is committing $5.5 million dollars toward community violence intervention programs.

While those funds will reach many areas throughout the city, leaders announced the expansion of one specific program Friday.

One of the speakers, Lisa LaGrone said, this money is going to a part of town that needs much more than federal dollars.

"This community right here needs hope and I hope that we can bring it back," she said.

For LaGrone, violent crime is personal.

"They shot my grandson three times in his head," she said.

LaGrone's grandson is just one of the many victims, who have lost their lives to gun violence in the city's 22nd Ward.

Jamala Rogers, with the Organization for Black Struggle, is hoping they can take the community's fear away.

"This is a ward that has been without political leadership for a while, and the folks have become hopeless, they have become fearful," she said.

These issues are why Rogers, and others were excited to announce the expansion of Project Haki on Friday morning.

"We want to engage the community in ways that they haven't been engaged in before, to empower them, and to transform the spaces that we live in today," she said.

Project Haki is a violence prevention program that LaGrone started two years ago; specifically for the 22nd Ward.

This includes areas like the Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood on the city's north side.

"It's about saving some lives. It's about changing some mindsets," LaGrone said.

Project Haki is one of the multiple programs receiving federal funds from the Mayor's Office.

According to Rogers, this money will allow Project Haki to do things like hosting kids' summer programs and reclaiming Barrett Brothers Park.

"This park has been plagued with crime and drugs and it's been underutilized for many years," she said.

Wilford Pinkney, with the Mayor's Office, said the federal funds will be used to connect people with employment services, mental health resources and drug rehab centers.

"We need multiple people to engage and address this issue, and so, we need to help support and build capacity in a lot of community organizations," he said.

St. Louis leaders stressed that it takes a village to combat crime and social problems, and that's why LaGrone said, they're calling on the community to step in.

"We try to do a lot, but it's gonna take everybody. It's not just gonna just take Project Haki, it's gonna take all of us together," she said.

This is all a part of President Joe Biden's community violence intervention cohort, which includes the City of St. Louis, according to Pinkney.

Pinkney said this is a serious effort, from the Mayor's Office and community organizations, to fix some of the city's biggest problems and they're in it for the long haul.

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