Back of the Yards organization builds relationships with Chicago youth to prevent violence

Wednesday, July 10, 2024 11:25PM
South Side organization builds trust with youth to prevent violence
Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation is an organization that works to build trust and relationships with Chicago youth to help prevent violence.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced a funding initiative Wednesday to prevent violence.

One Chicago organization that will benefit from the initiative is Precious Blood Ministry in the Back of the Yards neighborhood on the South Side.

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Leaders of the organization said building relationships with people in the community is key, and they're doing that through various activities.

It was on a local basketball court where Curtis Dixon said his life began to mean something. As a 15-year-old, Dixon was a high school drop out. He said he was lost until an outreach worker from Precious Blood Ministries asked Dixon and his friends to play in a tournament.

"Once the tournament was over, we found ourselves still coming up here," Dixon said.

Dixon never left. The 22-year-old is now a mentor working for the anti-violence organization that is located in an old school building on the border of the Back of the Yards and Englewood Neighborhoods...Precious Blood works with young people and their families impacted by violence and incarceration

"First, we build relationships and then we try to respond with whatever the needs might be," Precious Blood Ministries Executive Director Fr. David Kelly said.

It's deeper than a kid with a gun... That kid is hurting. That kid is scared, lost, and they just need guidance.
Curtis Dixon, Precious Blood Ministries mentor

Kelly said relationship building is done through various activities, such as working in their huge garden, a culinary arts program or peace circles. Their hope is to gain a young person's trust and give them a safe place to tell their story.

"And their story any be one grief and pain and anger because of loss because of trauma or the story can be one of just desperation," Kelly said.

Through their stories, Kelly has learned the lack of safety is why many young people in the neighborhoods have guns and end up using them over minor teenage confrontations.

"And when they don't feel safe and when they don't feel adults really have their backs, they have to find ways to feel safe," Kelly said.

While the center helps participants with school and employment, Dixon said building relationships with someone who cares about them is a first step in preventing violence.

"It's deeper than a kid with a gun. It's deeper than that," Dixon said. "That kid is hurting. That kid is scared, lost, and they just need guidance. That it is."

Another key to the program's success is something Fr. Kelly calls relentless engagement. He said no matter what happens to the participants, even if it is incarceration, the center has their backs.