On the streets of any city like Oakland, people die by the gun. Others will be shot, stabbed or beaten, but survive. These wounded, and the survivors of the dead, are desperately in need of care and emotional, financial and practical support toward healing from their trauma.
Khadafy Washington Project
The Khadafy Washington Project provides critical response to family and friends of homicide victims in order to prevent retaliation and promote healing. These survivors are thrust suddenly into a dark, desperate, confusing place at a time when there is much business to attend to. Investigations, funerals, forms and fear dominate. For many years in Oakland, survivors found no one to guide them through the business or grief of being a survivor, no one to help begin the process of healing. In 2000, a mere two months after his high school graduation, Marilyn Washington Harris lost her only son, Khadafy Washington, to the gun in West Oakland. Marilyn had no one to help her and it made a lonely time more lonely and frightening. She pledged that no family in Oakland would have to go through a similar loss alone again. She began stepping into the immediate aftermath of homicides to be the eyes and brains of the shocked survivors, to guide them and protect them from exploitation. Eventually, Marilyn joined us at Youth ALIVE! and we proudly carry on the brilliant and caring work she started in the name of her lost son.
All of our counseling services are administered by a staff highly trained in recognizing the symptoms of trauma that occur in victims of violence. Our mental health counselors provide community-based services in collaboration with our intervention workers. The goal is to assist each client in creating their own road map to healing. For people who have grown up in violent neighborhoods, the traditional 50-minute therapy session is not always the best approach. By bringing therapy out of the clinic and into the community, Youth Alive! has seen an increase in the number of clients engaged in active therapy: from about 5 percent of its clients to 35 percent.
START (Screening & Tool for Awareness & Relief of Trauma) is a tool we developed with a group of young men recovering from their own gunshot wounds, to help identify otherwise neglected symptoms of trauma and to offer a bit of relief to the sufferer. There are young people in Oakland who have never been shot but who nevertheless are suffering from the trauma of growing up amidst the violence. They see it in their homes, on their streets and in their schools. Many have lost a loved one to the violence. And it affects them. They are traumatized. START interviews are brief guided conversations, maybe 20 to 30 minutes, conducted by a trained caring adult, to identify possible symptoms of trauma, to increase understanding of why and how trauma affects us, and to give a sufferer tools for coping in those moments when grief and trauma emerge. We offer this tool free of charge to partner agencies as well.