ELKHART — After two shooting incidents in five days in Elkhart, a group of community organizations is speeding up plans to try to help.
After Thursday’s shooting at a market, “I wanted to let the community know people are working on solutions to the violence,” said Jason Moreno, Elkhart community organizer at LaCasa, a nonprofit housing agency.
Elkhart will very soon have a “Don’t Shoot” hotline available to help people find non-violent solutions to conflicts.
“My job is to help people coordinate and get in touch with resources,” Moreno explained. He and Jermaine Sanders, the pastor who started “My Hood Needz Me,” were talking about ways to help address gun violence, thinking, “how are we prioritizing our efforts in this neighborhood and what we could go through first.”
They jokingly talked about a hotline, but kept coming back to the idea. “There was so much truth in it that we sort of walked toward that goal,” Moreno explained.
They reached out to the Center for Community Justice because they knew that mediation would have to be part of a successful effort, and CCJ agreed to provide mediation services “for people who are having a conflict and are that upset that they’re thinking about using a gun,” Moreno said.
Moreno said the group reached out to Oaklawn to see if they’d be willing to man the hotline with people who could immediately address the issues and point callers toward CCJ, and Oaklawn agreed. “The agreements are in place, the telephone number is there,” though they’re not quite ready to make it public yet.
“Ultimately we’re hoping it’s going to put a bug in people’s ears. If we can get this program to be part of the local lexicon and people will think, ‘Don’t Shoot’ and know that there’s a resource out there for people desperate enough to think of gun violence, we want to help talk them down from an action they’re going to regret in the immediate future if not the rest of their lives,” Moreno said.
It’s an untried idea, as far as Moreno knows. “I’ve never heard of a crisis hotline for this,” he said.
The group is looking for donations to get signs, business cards and magnets produced to get the number out there. “Any of the groups that are going to be part of this will have access to the materials once they’re out there,” Moreno said.
In addition to the hotline’s launch in the near future, residents of two neighborhoods will have chances to get together and talk about the violence issue. The Roosevelt Neighborhood Association will meet at 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8, at the Roosevelt Center, Moreno said. The Tipton Neighborhood Association will meet at 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15, at Mary Beck Elementary School.