Community collaboration aims to tackle violence in Sto-Rox

STOWE TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Local nonprofit ‘Focus on Renewal’ is leading the charge in the Sto-Rox community’s latest initiative to tackle violence, thanks to a $10 million grant from Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services.

Three new programs are in the works, each with a different purpose, aimed at helping young men get back on their feet and on the right path.

“There’s a lot of pride here,” said Cynthia Haines, the executive director of Focus on Renewal. “We’re doing it – it is about a ‘we’ and it is about an ‘us.’

Channel 11 sat down with some key players involved in this community collaboration, who told us about each program. The first is called the rapid employment and development initiative, or R.E.A.D.I., giving participants the mental health resources they need to succeed in the workforce.

“That’s my passion…to make sure that no one is left behind,” said Terri Minor-Spencer/R.E.A.D.I. program manager. “Especially when someone – when it’s hard to get employed due to various things: incarceration, mental health, environment.”

Participants share experiences through cognitive behavioral therapy and conversation, sitting in a circle.

“This circle is a metaphor for people really talking,” Haines said. “How do you handle anger? How do you make your decisions? Ultimately, how we think is who we are.”

The second is called ‘Becoming a Man,’ or B.A.M. designed for high school students.

“Personal accountability, personal empowerment, self-efficacy, decision making, anger management is key…but also respect for women - that has to start really, really early,” Haines said.

At Focus on Renewal, one of the programs, Cure Violence, is aimed to reduce conflict by strategically placing people throughout the community to de-escalate situations.

“Folks from the community, of the community…who really are not only intervening in violence before it happens but really are about changing norms…group norms…in the community around gun violence,” Haines said.

These programs are modeled after similar ones in other parts of the country and are still in their early stages in Sto-Rox.

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