Hundreds of community organizers met for the second time late last week to put together a plan to end violence in the Mission District. Elements of the plan include determining what services are available, which ones need more funding, and what local laws should be changed to help get at-risk youth off the streets and prevent gang violence.
“These brothers and sisters need anger management because they’ve got anger, they’ve got drug problems, they’ve got alcohol problems, they’ve got mental health problems,” said Roberto Hernandez, one of the organizers.
While gang violence in the Mission has decreased dramatically over the years, a recent uptick has driven local organizers to come up with a comprehensive plan. The Mission Police Station, which serves about 90,000 residents in the Mission, Castro and Noe Valley neighborhoods, recorded nine homicides in 2012 — half of what the station recorded in 2008, the oldest numbers available.
Members of the loose coalition, called the Mission Peace Collaborative, packed the auditorium at Everett Middle School to finish drawing up a plan that addresses the social problems that lead to gang violence. The group split into six committees — education and health, policy, employment, housing, cultural arts and recreation, and faith and immigration — to come up with policy suggestions to present to city officials.
Organizers have created similar plans in the past but the city has not taken action on them, Hernandez said. Organizers hope that this time will be different, and they have the support of District 9 Supervisor David Campos.
“The issue of public safety cannot be resolved unless the community has a voice and a say,” Campos said. “I am committed to making sure whatever solutions the community comes up with that we make sure the city invests the resources to implement it.”
One of the coalition’s overarching goals is to identify the assets already available, fund them, and streamline the services to those who need them.
“If we have sources on demand, just like Comcast can get you movies on demand, we should get services on demand,” Hernandez said.
One way to get youth off the streets is to help them find jobs. The group wants to explore how the local hiring law could be used to help secure jobs for youths in the city’s burgeoning construction industry.
“That’s what 90 percent of the brothers and sisters said they want: ‘Give me a job and I’ll get off the streets,’” Hernandez said. Local merchants groups have expressed interest in helping, he said.
Coalition members are already encouraged by the community response.
Dina Carrillo, the mother of Jose Escobar, a 19-year-old man who was gunned down on 16th Street in October 2012, asked to speak after reading about the group’s efforts.
“I have two little ones here and I want them to see the community, I want them to know that we just didn’t lose Jose,” she said. “We need to keep this going positive.”
Several of the committees will continue meeting in the coming weeks. No dates for future meetings have been set at this time; Mission Local will post them as they become available.