DC program focuses on those most at risk for gun violence

As crime rates rise, D.C. leaders and police are struggling to find ways to turn the tide.

Mayor Muriel Bowser hopes to make a difference with a new initiative that is aimed at helping people at the highest risk of being involved in gun violence to stay on the right side of the law.

“We know that people want to support themselves, and be a benefit to their families, and to do that they need to find a job and housing, and repair relationships with people in their family, to be successful,” Bowser said Monday.

The People of Promise Initiative will help 200 D.C. residents who have been identified by the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform as being at the highest risk of being involved in gun violence in the District, Bowser said.

Each person selected for the program will have a team of people who can help them in different areas. The Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services and the Department of Corrections are among the agencies that will help.

Each participant will also have a member of the mayor’s Cabinet assigned to their team.

DC's Mayor Announces People with Promise Initiative
Paul Winestock, owner of the restaurant His and Hers DC, and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser take part in a press conference announcing the start of the People of Promise initiative Monday. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

This approach “will help make a difference and bend the curve of violence we’re experiencing in our city,” Bowser said.

According to the District, the goal is to disrupt cycles of violence, poverty and incarceration through consistent engagement with people and connections to support and services.

“We’re asking people to promise to see a different kind of future for themselves. And in return, we are committed to providing the services they need to overcome the hurt and trauma of their past,” said Delano Hunter, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation and interim director of the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement.

The announcement comes during National Reentry Month, also known as National Second Chance Month. The announcement was made at His and Hers DC, a restaurant in Northeast owned by Paul Winestock, who spent 23 years in federal prison for drug convictions.

In addition to the restaurant, he also began an organization called Saving Our Next Generation, which employs people who have completed their prison sentences.

“We want to multiply individuals as Mr. Paul Winestock who are deserving of a real second chance, and in the District, that is what they receive — a real second chance,” said Lamont Carey, director of the District’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs.

Bowser said her budget also calls for $1.7 million to go toward life coaches who can help recently released residents restart their lives.

Editor’s note: This story has been edited with the correct spelling of Paul Winestock’s name. 

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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