The call-ins have been a key part of our Lifelines strategy since Ceasefire restarted in Oakland last year. Despite some of the controversy about Ceasefire in the media, the call-ins have been an effective way to build relationships with those most at-risk of committing violence in the community.
The sessions allow us to meet with those folks caught up in the violence and give them alternatives to prison. The participants get stern warnings from the police about the consequences of continuing down a violent path. However, the participants also get to talk with key clergy and community leaders about the alternatives possible. Services are always offered, and most of the time a number of the participants take them.
Last month’s call-in showed some new progress, reports Rev. Damita Davis-Howard, OCO’s Lifelines organizer. Nineteen young people showed up to participate in the call-in, and 15 of them expressed interest in taking advantage of the services being offered—the highest percentage we’ve ever seen. Rev. Damita said it helped this time that more service providers were in the room, the young men were fed a real meal (not just pizza and the like) and the location of the call-in was in neutral territory.
Additionally, six of the 15 people that expressed interest in services came back for a follow-up session the next week. One person brought a family member, and one person brought a previous call-in participant who had now accepted services.
“What I have seen in their faces is real desire and a hunger to right the course of their lives,” Rev. Damita said. She said it feels like all the components of Ceasefire are finally working in sync. By listening to the participants and letting them know that they are a part of the community and that there are people in the community who care about their future, the strategy has been able to grow by leaps and bounds.
On top of that, shootings and homicides in the city have dropped this year. “I think we’ll see those numbers continue to drop over the next six and nine months,” Rev. Damita said.