On Monday, June 12, Mayor Michael Hancock and Executive Director of Public Safety Stephanie O'Malley stood on the steps of the City and County Building, along with many community members, to announce an initiative that aims to heal wounds caused by gang violence.
Safe Haven is a faith-led initiative started in collaboration with the Gang Reduction Initiative of Denver (GRID) and over twenty churches around the city that focuses on providing emotional and spiritual support to "community members struggling with trauma, fear or frustration as a result of gang violence," explained Mayor Hancock.
"This is not a law enforcement effort," said O'Malley. "This is an initiative built by the community, for the community."
Churches that have partnered with Safe Haven will serve as safe locations for community members in need of healing following gang-related incidents. The Safe Haven church closest to an incident will be open for three days; community members will find volunteers trained in support services as well as professional emotional/mental wellness providers. More in-depth services will also be provided to those who need them.
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The sites will provide services for "each unique healing process," noted O'Malley.
Explained Pastor Terrence Hughes, a partner and co-founder of the project, "This is not a Christian initiative. The doors of our churches are open to anyone who needs healing. You can have no faith and come get healing."
The leaders of the Safe Haven network hope that not only will community members find a "safe, supportive community," but also that "those affected by gang violence will find an opportunity to connect and see that they aren't alone," noted Pastor Phillip Abeyta.
Gang violence has been on the rise amid gentrification in neighborhoods like Cole and Whittier, as Westword reported earlier this year. As communities continue to be affected across Denver, the Safe Haven team hopes this initiative will serve a much-needed role. "While gang violence always needs a suppression center, we also believe it needs a spiritual-healing model," Hughes said.