Auburn Gresham neighbors try to overcome violence amid rise in homicides

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Auburn Gresham is one of Chicago's most violent neighborhoods, particularly this year.

"Every day when I get home, I shut my door and I lean my head to the door as I'm locking it, and I'm thanking God that I just made it through the day," said Joseph Saunders, youth counselor.

According to Chicago Police Department data, 22 people have been killed in Auburn Gresham so far this year. That is more than in all 2019, when 20 people in total were killed. In fact, this year to date there have been more homicides than in any of the last five years.

Miraculously, Tuesday night's mass shooting didn't take any lives.

RELATED: Chicago shooting at funeral home injures 15 in Auburn Gresham

Lamar Johnson, a violence prevention coordinator at the Arc of St. Sabina, was driving by the funeral home with his 7-year-old in the car when it started.

"Being in crossfires, being around people shot, seeing people die at your feet. Knowing people who are perpetrators of violence and victims. It is unfortunately our reality," he said.

But just a few blocks away, a group of young people, ages 16 to 24, worked in a community garden at 77th and Halsted Wednesday morning. It's part of a six-week summer job training program.

The shooting gave them pause, but not enough to skip work.

"I love nature and animals," said Shayla Turner. "I feel like I would do this for free, so it's even better to get paid for it."

"The garden here, what we hope is to bring more people in, more people off the streets," said Tarris Ray.

Flavian Prince runs the program, which is part of a nonprofit called Workforce High.

"The majority of our kids know someone who's been shot and killed, some of our kids we got directly from jail," he said. "They've been adjudicated, so they're here trying to do something positive. Something that's solution-oriented."

St. Sabina is offering a $15,000 dollar reward, $1,000 for each victim, for information that leads to the arrest of those involved in Tuesday night's shooting.
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