Employment Connection, a nonprofit that has long focused on reducing recidivism in ex-offenders, has won the contract to implement a Cure Violence site in the Wells Goodfellow/Hamilton Heights neighborhood. The site is scheduled to open on April 1.
The Cure Violence model — which treats violence as an epidemic outbreak and therefore a public health issue — is active in more than 25 cities throughout the world. Cure Violence employs local residents with street credibility to prevent gun violence by de-escalating potentially violent situations before they happen.
On Tuesday, February 11, a City of St. Louis selection committee chose Employment Connection out of eight bids responding to the Request for Proposals. The Board of Estimate and Apportionment (E&A) — which is comprised of the mayor, comptroller and president of the Board of Aldermen — is expected to approve the contract, seeing that representatives from those three offices made up the selection committee.
Sal Martinez, CEO of Employment Connection, said he would withhold comment until the agency has an executed contract.
Employment Connection was founded in 1977 after a study by the Young Lawyers Division of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis (BAMSL) discovered that employed ex-offenders were 66 percent less likely to return to incarceration, according to the organization’s website. They assist about 2,000 people annually to find employment and focus on recidivism.
“They met all the components of the program that are needed for proper implementation of Cure Violence,” said Fred Echols, MD, director of the city’s health department, who is now leading the Cure Violence effort. “Looking at all the applications, this organization really spoke best about their ability to provide the services, as well as their history for providing the services for the City of St. Louis.”
On November 8, Mayor Lyda Krewson announced that the City of St. Louis Department of Health will lead the violence-prevention program Cure Violence, which is set to receive $8 million in city funds over the next three years.
The Cure Violence sites — which target areas of about 15,000 people — will be located within approximately 10-by-10 blocks in the Wells Goodfellow/Hamilton Heights, Walnut Park and Dutchtown neighborhoods.
The selection committee will now issue RFPs for the next two sites in Walnut Park and Dutchtown.
On October 4, the Board of Aldermen passed a bill to approve $5 million for Cure Violence over the next three years. On September 17, the Board of E&A approved $1.5 million for the program, and the Board of Aldermen approved $500,000 in July as part of the regular budget process. Board President Lewis Reed said the city will have a couple of years to secure the last $1 million — for a total of $8 million.
The Cure Violence funding bill states that there have been 138 homicides in 2019, and there were 186 murders in 2018 — 93.6 percent of them were committed with a gun.
“Cure Violence is proven to reduce shootings and killings dramatically in urban settings in just one year,” the bill states.
Cure Violence leaders will be guiding the implementation of their de-escalation model in St. Louis and training staff. All staff will come from the specific neighborhoods where they will be working, said Marcus McAllister, an international trainer with Cure Violence.