The threat of violence in the streets of Oakland is ongoing and ever-shifting. Through our intervention programs working directly with young people caught up in the cycle of violence, we step into the tensest situations to discourage retaliation, diffuse hostilities, and provide pathways to a healthier life.
Caught in the Crossfire
Through Caught in the Crossfire (CiC), Youth ALIVE! Intervention Specialists meet traumatized young victims of violence at their hospital bedsides to 1) convince them and their friends and family not to retaliate; and 2) to offer practical help and a path towards healing.
CiC was born out of a need and a vision. In the early 1990s, young Sherman Spears found himself wounded and angry in a hospital bed in Oakland, reeling from the news that he would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. His loved ones offered him the only solace they knew: retaliation. Sherman chose a more peaceful path. Instead of returning to the violent life of the streets, Sherman invented Caught in the Crossfire, our hospital-based violence intervention program. CiC is staffed by specialists recruited from the community they serve, who bring knowledge and caring, not judgment.
Today, at Alameda County trauma centers, CiC intervention specialists and case managers address both the urgent need for violence intervention and the ongoing needs of traumatized victims as they get back to life and confront the sometimes debilitating effects of their trauma. The first program of its kind, Caught in the Crossfire continues to be replicated across the nation.
Interested in starting your own hospital intervention program? Check out our Hospital Intervention Guides.
Our young people bear the greatest burden of our violent streets. But there is hope and there are alternatives. Our Violence Interrupters take to the most dangerous streets at the most dangerous times of night to engage young people, to diffuse tensions, mediate conflicts and encourage alternatives to violence. These interrupters are people who have been there, who have either worked in street outreach for years or who have been on the other side, who understand the language, the codes, the barriers to a new life for young gang and group members in Oakland’s toughest neighborhoods.
Since 2002, our intervention specialists have worked with youth at the highest risk for involvement in violence, either because they are already in the juvenile justice system, or have been identified by their school as likely to become so. Some are gang affiliated, some have been suspended for violence, some have been sexually exploited, many have been neglected or even abused at home, if they even have a home, and almost all are truant or failing from school. All need the caring and knowledgeable aid of an adult mentor. We work to increase their safety and change outlooks as these young people make their transitions: back home from incarceration, back into school, back into stability.
In response to many requests from hospitals and agencies throughout the country interested in replicating our Caught in the Crossfire hospital-based intervention model, Youth ALIVE! established the National Network of Hospital-based Violence Intervention Programs (NNHVIP) in 2009, which has grown to include dozens of member programs from across the US, UK, Latin America and Canada. The NNHVIP brings together the best and most exciting programs to share knowledge, develop best practices, collaborate on research, affect policy change, and more. Read more about NNHVIP.