CU Fresh Start
CU Fresh Start was a community-led approach to deter gun violence. Focused deterrence gives individuals with a history of involvement with gun-related activity a chance to put down the gun and move in a different direction. If participants chose to put their guns down and engage with CU Fresh Start, they were assigned a case manager to assess their needs and connect them to community resources.
The CU Fresh Start model had three “Pillars” which allowed the initiative to offer strength and balance in its approach. Each of the three pillars was vital for the efforts to be a success.
Law Enforcement Pillar:
These professionals assisted to establish clear criteria to identify potential candidates, notified them of legal consequences of gun violence, and provided a clear opportunity to stop shooting. They then followed up with swift and certain consequences if violence continued.
Individuals who engaged with CU Fresh Start were assigned a case manager to help them access available resources. The case manager worked closely with participants, assessing their needs and helping connect them with relevant support services. These efforts focused on providing opportunities for the participants to help them achieve stability in their lives.
This group humanized the effect of violence. It included family and friends of participants, family and friends of local victims of gun violence, clergy and funeral directors, emergency medical personnel, neighborhood leaders and residents, former offenders, and elected officials. These community members supported the participants by delivering the message that the entire community stands behind their decision to put down the guns. Individuals who had a history of involvement with gun-related activity were potentially eligible to engage with the CU Fresh Start Initiative.
Lovin’ You Champaign
The Lovin’ U Campaign was a series of block parties and community engagement events put on by the City’s Neighborhood Services Department in partnership with the Champaign County Community Coalition and the Hip-Hop Xpress. Each stop on the Lovin’ U Campaign Tour featured an interactive DJ and music, refreshments, family-friendly games and activities, bounce house, and information/resource vendors. Attendees also had the opportunity to provide feedback to the City on their thoughts and ideas of how the American Rescue Plan funds would have the biggest impact on the community. These events were free and open to the public.
Trauma & Resilience Initiative (TRI)
The Trauma & Resilience Initiative (TRI) is a collaborative initiative designed to educate the community about trauma, trauma-informed care, and resiliency. Additionally, TRI advocates for more trauma-informed policies, practices, and principles.
TRI hosts free community-wide trainings to improve the community’s ability to respond to families who have been affected by trauma. Volunteers with TRI perform direct outreach to community members experiencing trauma, making needs assessments, and offering relevant support. The goals of these efforts are to reduce the impact of adverse community experiences by healing and repairing those who have been impacted by trauma.
Activities and Trainings:
Topics covered in activities and trainings include adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), trauma, trauma-informed care, resilience building, and strategies to decrease adverse community experiences and address the root causes of violence. Examples include:
- Free screenings of “Broken Places”: This documentary highlights what people, communities, and organizations can do to promote, build, and support resiliency and growth following incidents of trauma. The film screening was followed by a discussion with the filmmakers about what communities can do to help people who have experienced adversity and trauma.
- Free Healing Solutions 40 Hour Training: This training discusses the root causes of community and gun violence and the best practices to address them. Participants learn how to support survivors and individuals affected by violence and trauma. Mental health professionals work with trainees to teach methods for preventing adverse community experiences and building resiliency in individuals, families, and communities.
- Trauma Educator Training: This train-the-trainer session is for community members who wish to educate others in the community, their organizations, groups or families about trauma, healing and resiliency. This is an opportunity to share resources with those impacted by trauma and help identify and find healing and helpful solutions.
- Community Violence Response: In times of community crisis, volunteers with TRI are available to respond directly to impacted neighborhoods and individuals. These individualized responses allow volunteers to assess immediate needs and provide support.
Since 2017, TRI has had 95 unique trainings that impacted 957 participants.
Countywide Coordinating Committee to Address Community Violence
In 2015, when the community began to see an increase in community gun violence for the first time, the Community Coalition began the work to identify and implement approaches to respond to these tragedies. This response included support from grassroots groups, impacted community members, faith groups, and volunteers from every corner of Champaign-Urbana.
Over the years, gun violence continued to rise and finding solutions was complex, especially in the midst of the ongoing crisis. There have been numerous town halls, planning sessions, and individual conversations to gather feedback from the community to strengthen the approaches to solutions.
The introduction of the community-led Coordinating Committee for initiatives to address community violence was a big step in tacking the myriad of issues. This Coordinating Committee prioritized the voices of community members most impacted by community violence and was central in driving messaging and communication on the valuable work being done in the community.
The Coordinating Committee had the following roles:
- Cultivate a hub of resources and information regarding history of addressing community violence
- Elevate the community voice in promoting initiatives to address community violence with a unified vision
- Facilitate community input and engagement in community violence initiatives
- Identify community resources to support community members impacted by community violence
- Identify resources and training to support community-based initiatives
Victory Over Violence
The Champaign County Community Coalition, in partnership with WCIA-TV, hosted a special Community Coalition meeting and Victory Over Violence Town Hall on October 13, 2021. WCIA Anchor Jennifer Roscoe moderated the Victory Over Violence panel discussion featuring these panelists:
- Sheriff Dustin Heuerman, Champaign County Sheriff’s Office
- James “Tygar” Corbin, First Followers (Provider of direct support services for the formerly incarcerated and impacted community members.)
- Regina Crider, Youth and Family Peer Support Alliance (Family-run organization that advocates for family needs and voices.)
- Sheldon Turner, Champaign Unit 4 Schools (High school-age youth programs Operation Hope and Goal Getters.)
Tracy Parsons, Community Relations Manager & Coalition Facilitator, lead a question-and-answer segment with panelists to build stronger partnerships, identify needs and work collectively to end community violence.