Better Family Life to open de-escalation centers to curb violence

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – Better Family Life, Inc. is responding to what some community leaders say are the two biggest issues facing the City of St. Louis, with a pair of innovative programs to reduce drugs and violence in St. Louis.

In recent weeks, organizers say they seen high-profile murders and a spike in drug overdoses. Better Family Life is addressing these issues by going into neighborhoods to reduce gun violence and drugs, addressing the challenges causing people to engage in destructive behaviors, because simply arresting people does not solve these problems.

“I believe these are the two most relevant issues facing St. Louis now,” said James Clark, Better Family Life, Inc. VP of Community Outreach. “These problems spread rapidly and could be in your neighborhood next.”

The BFL Gun Violence De-Escalation Centers program will intervene and mediate known conflicts that are predicted to escalate to gun violence with a process developed at BFL that has seen great success.

The BFL Open-Air Drug Market Crisis Response Project will go to the root of drug usage and prostitution that are being engaged in openly 24/7 by working with people to solve the underlying causes for engaging in destructive behaviors.

Now Better Family Life is setting up De-Escalation Centers in neighborhoods throughout the St. Louis Metropolitan Area, including member churches in BFL’s Pulpit to Porches Initiative. While observing confidentiality, representatives at the centers will document the dispute, location if applicable, and begin the resolution process. In instances where disputing parties agree, they will share more information about themselves and their experiences so we can develop and build upon prevention and de-escalation strategies.

How and Why the Process Works
When mediation is requested several actions will take place:

1. Within hours of notification of the conflict, Outreach Mediators begin outreach to one or all parties involved in the dispute.
2. A detailed case history is documented, because knowing the possible genesis of the conflict will inform the intervention strategy.
3. Those family and friends closest to the disputing parties are identified and contacted – individuals most likely to care enough to take immediate action and will usually have the most leverage with the disputing parties.
4. At least one of the disputing parties will be asked to come in to begin dialogue and look at possible solutions. At whatever point it is feasible and/or necessary, both disputing parties and some portion of their support system are engaged in the resolution dialogue.
5. The need for application/engagement of immediate resources will be reviewed. In cases where volatility is high, one party may need to leave the area and go silent in order to provide the time and space for mediation to begin.
6. Upon resolution, commitments to the agreement and to high-value contacts will be reviewed and follow-up conducted to ensure that the truce is holding.
7. Any additional resources needed by the disputing parties and/or family members will be engaged.
8. The well-distributed network of churches engaged in the Pulpits to Porches Initiative can provide a neutral base of operations for the effort.

• Greater St. Marks Family Church (North County), 9950 Glen Owens Dr.
• New Northside Missionary Baptist (North City), 8645 Goodfellow Blvd.
• Washington Metropolitan A.M.E. Zion Church (Midtown), 613 N. Garrison Ave.
• Curby Memorial Presbyterian Church (South City), 2621 Utah St.