Nonprofit founder applauds Indy’s crime prevention grants 1 year after cousin was gunned down

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — It's been a little over a year since someone shot and killed 13-year-old Harry Taliefer when the teen tried to peacefully break up a fight among 20-30 teens and adults.

When Taliefer died, his family vowed to try to tackle gun violence.

"It's not something you just kind of get over overnight," said Taliefer's cousin, James Wilson. "You know, talking about a young 13-year-old who was vibrant and full of life and talent, it's just, it's so hard. It's not something simple by any means."

People throughout Indianapolis, as well as city officials, are also working to combat crime. The Indy's Office of Public Health and Safety announced that five programs received $60,000 crime prevention grants Wednesday. These grants are for evidence-based grassroots programs.

Wilson is the founder of the non-profit organization Circle Up Indy. He did not apply for one of the city's grants, but said he understands how helpful any amount is for a program.

"They build relationships with the young people to really concentrate on what are some of the issues that they're dealing with," Wilson said.

Kia Wright is the executive director of VOICES. They are a community arts organization that provides in-class and after school programs. VOICES has a program called "Power and Promise," which recruits and trains teens and young adults to mentor younger children from the same communities they come from. This gives those children someone to talk to who understands similar violence and trauma they have experienced.

Wright said the $60,000 grant will help her expand this program to community referrals instead of only accepting children from the Department of Child Services and juvenile court because of funding.

"Most of our kids are out of a school system, so they don't get those opportunities to be on school counsel or to be mentors," Wright explained. "For us, it was really about giving them that lens to be seen through. Changing the narrative about what these kids are capable of, that they can be seen as leaders, that they can help influence the generation below them."

OPHS provided a news release detailing each of the other programs that received grants:

RecycleForce & B4UFALL
RecycleForce provides transitional employment and other services to Indianapolis justice-involved adults, with a focus on 14 ZIP codes that experience violence. Its evidence-based program focuses on building occupational skills, providing safety training, job search and placement assistance.

RecycleForce’s grant award will help expand its program for direct peer outreach mentoring services to RecycleForce's transitional employees, provided in
large part through a contract with the mentoring organization B4UFALL. B4UFALL will also engage in on-street violence intervention and interruption.

Step-Up, Inc.
Step-Up, Inc. is a non-profit organization that provides critical health services such as HIV and STI testing and prevention services, as well as re-entry services for adults. Step-Up’s grant award will support the expansion of its successful collaboration with Zealous Minds for the “No-Entry” program.

The program serves students who have been identified as particularly at risk by IPS, provides such interventions as focused mentoring, the services
of a “school advocate,” case management services, and flexibly-located “mobile learning labs.” Step-Up and Zealous Minds plan to focus on Tech High School and Washington High School for the coming school year.

Violence Free Living
Violence Free Living is a proven, successful classroom-based violence reduction program that is focused on intervention for incarcerated individuals, probationers and parolees, and at-risk members of the community. VFL has developed its own curriculum, which is based on a cognitive based therapy approach delivered in an interactive class setting.

VFL is receiving grant funding to expand its services to Roberts Park United Methodist Church and two additional locations to be determined, as well as to maintain the two courses already being taught in Marion County Jail I and Jail II.

Youth Employment System Indy Re-Engagement Centers
The Youth Employment System Indy Re-Engagement Centers is a program of EmployIndy that focuses on five areas that experience violence. The program operates re-engagement centers that serve “Opportunity Youth” – young people 16-24 who are disconnected from either education or the workforce, many because of involvement with the criminal justice system.

YES Indy REC partners with neighborhood non-profits and community-based organizations to create welcoming environments for opportunity youth,
provide a two-week pre-training course, followed by one-on-one developmental and career services as well as adult basic education courses, industry credential certification training, and wrap-around services such as mentoring and barrier buster supports.

The city said they are working with IUPUI to do a post-grant evaluation of last year's programs. Those programs will finish their year of grant funding in August.

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