Better Family Life and churches seek to root out issues that cause violence in the community

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ST. LOUIS - A deadly shooting in north St. Louis has community leaders calling for action and reflecting on where those issues stem from.

“We cannot allow another generation of African-Americans to think that African-Americans killing African-Americans is the way that it is," says James Clark with Better Family Life.

Nearly 115 homicides in St. Louis this year and nearly three-quarters of those killed were African-Americans, according to St. Louis police records.

“There are a lot of external conditions that have a negative impact on the African-American community that create the conditions in which homicides take place," he says.

Clark and Better Family Life are working to change those conditions.

He believes the amnesty program plays a key role in that by helping people find a solution to their legal issues without penalties that includes all misdemeanors warrants like traffic tickets, marijuana possession, littering, and loitering, among others, along with child support warrants which are a felony.

He explains, "If you have outstanding warrants in two or three places you can forget about getting a job. If you can’t get a job there’s a certain amount of stress and frustration that comes with that too often leading to a life of alcoholism and drug abuse, not because the person wanted to be that way, but it was the stress of not being able to get a job. Then there’s another trail where if a person can’t get a job then they may turn to illegal activities.”

He says it can also impact housing status and current employment.

So far, he says roughly 4,200 people have taken advantage of the amnesty help with 62 municipalities participating.

He says he's working with local churches to help root out the issues his community faces that includes offering de-escalation services.

“You know I haven’t always been a preacher. I grew up in the street as well and I needed help. So, when you get caught up in that, you need somebody to help you. I think that’s what the church is for, to help people,” says Tommie Pierson, the Pastor at Greater St. Mark's Family Church.

The Greater St. Mark's Family Church was one of the first de-escalation centers and Clark says the program has a 93 percent success rate with outside evaluators.

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