City devotes another $440,000 to community anti-violence fight

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indicating Indianapolis has an excess of guns and a deficit of hope, Mayor Joe Hogsett announced $440,000 in community anti-violence grants Monday morning, a $140,000 increase over this year’s funding.

The grants from the Office of Public Health and Safety are in addition to $625,000 handed out earlier this year by City County Council members and the three million dollars in existing community anti-violence grants.

“These organizations continue to do good work, but I want to caution people that you can’t turn around the effects of a pandemic around overnight,” said Hogsett. “Frankly, the investments we were making during my first term were starting to pay dividends. We had started to see a reduction of homicides in Indianapolis in 2019. Then in March of 2020 the world was hit with a global pandemic.”

The pandemic’s arrival coincided with a record year for Indianapolis homicides.

This past weekend, Indianapolis recorded its 201st homicide for the year, compared with 177 on the same date last year when the city set a homicide record with 245 killings.

“I will commit to making sure that that that money is used and utilized in ways that hopefully will improve our numbers in gun violence and I would certainly hope in 2022 that we would have different numbers,” said Hogsett.

The Brookside Community Development Corporation will receive $100,000 in 2022 OPHS grants announced today.

“We’ll start by hiring another staff member to help us with our caseloads and it’s gonna help us expand our transitional living space from 18 to 30 next year with the housing that we’re expanding with,” said Brookside CEO David Cedarquist. “Once individuals find stability, a lot of hijacking factors come about, mental health issues, health issues, we do a lot of counseling around addiction, addiction’s a major problem in our city so we tackle that through relationships.”

With an additional $70,000 this coming year, Gregg Keesling at RecycleForce said he can provide more services for the ex-offenders Brookside sends him looking for work.

“We can expand the number of days my mental health team is on site,” said Keesling, “so with our federal grants, which are the bulk of our work that will allow us to pay high risk individuals, we can now move them into mental health treatment while we pay them and allow them to seek this mental health treatment.”

Chuck Ballinger has worked at RecycleForce for six months and sees the value of more on-site mental health support.

“It’s absolutely necessary,” he said. “A lot of these young men come out of broken homes, a lot of them are knocking on the door to the penitentiary, a lot of them have had bad experience, no father in the home.”

Norman Ford was incarcerated for 33 years before Brookside referred him to RecycleForce earlier this year.

“When I went in in the eighties, a whole lot of stuff had changed when I got out,” he said, recalling the support he and others receive to re-enter into a whole new world. “What that means is that a lot of men would probably be going back on the inside because they didn’t have the help they needed.”

Jim Query was a college professor before serving 109 months in prison and re-emerging to a Brookside referral to RecycleForce where he now teaches GED and logistics courses to fellow employees.

“The amount of support they provide is amazing,” he said, “whether it’s financial organizations coming in, the mayor’s office comes in and the president of the Indianapolis city council comes in, Shalom, it’s just incredible so, if a person takes advantage of this program and the Isaiah house program, it’s such a godsend.”

“It’s about helping us the offenders not reoffend and one of the favorite mottos is, ‘We not only recycle all the products you see, we recycle lives,’ and they do that.”

Keesling is preparing to break ground next week on a new RecycleForce site at 710 North Sherman Avenue at the location of the former RCA plant.

The anticipated 105,000 square foot plant will also contain 10,000 square feet of space for service providers to treat and counsel RecycleForce employees on site.

“We’re paying people to come in,” said Keesling, “we’re getting as much service as we can. This will allow us to have a more permanent place for service providers and to serve the population.”

City County Councilors are preparing to award another $625,000 in early 2022 to district-specific anti-violence programs.

The deadline to apply for those grants is October 15th.

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