Baltimore-based organization opens new space for violence intervention efforts among teens, young adults
By Kelsey Kushner,2023-06-01
BALTIMORE - Violence continues to be a concern in Baltimore City, especially involving children and young adults.
A Baltimore-based program is making a permanent change to help at-risk teens and young adults in Baltimore.
Roca Baltimore is an extensive outreach program that targets those at risk from the ages of 16 to 24.
On Wednesday, Roca unveiled a new space on Park Avenue where they can continue to make a difference in the lives of 250 teens and young adults in Baltimore.
This new space has classrooms for young adults to learn basic skills like driving, getting an education and learning ways to deal with trauma so they can go off and find jobs.
Roca has mentors to provide job training, a way to get their high school equivalency diplomas and even basic things like getting identification and safe shelter.
The new three-story location is a safe place for everyone to hang out.
Roca's four-year program works hard to help those who are surrounded by gun violence in Baltimore City.
"Roca stayed consistent with me and allowed me to not give up on myself so that made me feel more important than I thought I was," said Quantae Jones, a Roca member.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, U.S. Attorney Erek Barron and other community leaders were at the new location to discuss violence intervention efforts.
Jones said Roca is the only reason he's alive today.
"Before I joined Roca I didn't care about life," Jones said.
Youth violence has been an ongoing problem that has plagued Baltimore, especially over the past year.
However, Roca's founder, Kurtis Palermo, said this new building now represents a safe space where young men can go to avoid a dangerous road to violence.
"Our program is not a cure all but one part of a systematic approach of reducing gun violence one young person at a time," Palermo said.
Roca has been around for four years and has proven to be successful, according to Baltimore leaders.
"They are part of the team that has got us to a point," Mayor Scott said. "As we talk today, homicides are down 17 percent and non-fatal shootings are down 10 percent in Baltimore."
Jeffrey Jones, a member turned mentor, said Roca is helping hundreds change their lives.
"It's incredibly gratifying to spark change in young men," he said.
Roca's founder said their approach to finding young adults for their program is to go knock on the doors of some of Baltimore's most troubled neighborhoods.
And because of their success, Palermo said they plan on expanding their program to Baltimore County.