ST. LOUIS – St. Louis City’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment approved a contract Wednesday with Mission St. Louis to implement a new community violence intervention program.

“We’re excited to get this started. We’re excited to be able to love and care for staff that are going to be laying their life down to make sure that this city is loved and cared for,” said Josh Wilson, founder and CEO of Mission St. Louis.

“This doesn’t change the work itself. The work is still about looking at a defined geographical area, engaging high-risk individuals,” said Wilford Pinkney Jr., director of the Office of Violence Prevention.

The program will cover the following neighborhoods:

Gravois Park
Mt. Pleasant
Hamilton Heights
Walnut Park East
Walnut Park West

Mission St. Louis said violence interrupters, who best know the areas, will be working on the ground in these communities, building relationships and addressing deep systemic issues like poverty.

“Any time you’re battling poverty, that goes hand-in-hand with violence. And that’s what we’ve seen and that’s what we’ve had to deal with,” said Jason Watson, Mission St. Louis. “So even though our focus has been primarily in prevention, one of our main focuses has always been relationships.”

Since July, violence interrupters have been working on an independent contract basis.

Now they’ll get a chance to work full-time with Mission St. Louis. The first step is to ensure they have training.

“Making sure these individuals are equipped to actually do the work. That’s really, really important for us. So how do we pour into them, make them feel secure in being in these spaces, in being in these streets?” Watson said.

The contract is set to begin Sept. 1.