HAMPTON, Va. - As gun violence continues to target families and communities across our area, the City of Hampton is looking for solutions. City officials hope this latest effort will help combat shootings and prevent gang activity.
The new program coming to the city is called Opportunity Connect. It will offer fun activities like barbecues, outdoor movie nights, karaoke parties and more - all to keep young people on the right path.
News 3 spoke with one community activist who told us programs like this are definitely needed.
This program comes after Hampton Police reported 33 homicides last year.
Latiesha Handie, Director of Youth Opportunities for the program, said, "We're going to follow the bullets, and every time there's one there, were going to make sure that we're also there to combat and mitigate any issues that arrive because of it."
The program is on a mission to target people ages 14-24 who have either experienced violence as a witness or are someone who has lost a loved one to gun violence.
Handie said families provided feedback on a survey last year that requested this.
"Though we're having a good time having gaming buses, having a grill out there with the police force, throwing footballs with community members and youth, we still want to make sure we're bridging the gap," said Handie.
Although the program launches in May with the hope of building trust within the community, Handie said the goal is also to address mental health concerns and help young people getting out of jail with the resources they need. The goals are to end the cycle of trauma for families and stop senseless gun violence.
"We're working alongside them to make sure that we're getting the right support, employment, eligibility up for GEDs or any type of programs that you will need for school," said Handie.
Community activist Andrew Shannon said while they think this program will be beneficial for Hampton, this is just one of many steps on the ladder that need to be climbed.
"It's going to take more than singing, dancing, kicking a ball or running after a ball. It's going to take a opportunity to provide a foundation for future growth," Shannon said.
And with the recent uptick in gun violence throughout Hampton Roads, the activist said positive programs are needed to cut down on the number of vigils he has attended.
"The homicide that happened on Wine Street, that happened April 2 at 2 a.m. That was a block from City Hall. What we're saying is whatever net that you're casting out for these prevention programs, your net has to reach a lot further," said Shannon.
Opportunity Connect will be funded through an $800,000 grant from state and federal stimulus funds. Although the program has not launched yet, they're kicking off a week of events for Youth Violence Prevention Week starting April 25:
- April 25 - A Seat at the Table brunch
- April 26 - Paint and Vibe
- April 27 - Homicide Survivors Support
- April 28 - Diversity & Equity Webinar/ Drip on Wheels
- April 29 - Community Day/Virtual 5k
- April 30 - Father-Child Scavenger Hunt
To register for the events, click here.