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'No real plan' | DC activist calls for more consistency and accountability to address youth violence

Jawanna Hardy with Guns Down Friday says more programs and coordination can help reach young people in crisis

WASHINGTON — After every shooting in D.C., come the shouts and pleas for finding solutions to gun violence. There are leaders of agencies and educators all working to increase activities to keep kids off the streets. Councilmembers are proposing bills to improve access to before /after-school care. 

But now we want to hear from the community activists doing the work every day, to hear what's sill missing, and what can be done now. 

Fresh off her shift as a gun violence intervention specialist at Children's National Hospital, Jawanna Hardy met a WUSA9 reporter at Turkey Thicket Recreation Center in Northeast to talk about solutions to the growing crisis of youth violence. But before the conversation could even really get started, it was interrupted by the wail of sirens.  

“It’s overwhelming," Hardy said. 

The military vet has been fighting on the front lines, not only in the hospital triaging gunshot victims, but on the streets reaching young people through her program, Guns Down Friday.

"In the military we had structure," she said. 'We had a plan for what we were going to do with violence interruption. In DC there's no real plan. There's just a bunch of money being thrown around. I always ask, and I get in a lot of trouble because it’s even in my title but, ‘what is a violence interrupter?’ What is the strategy? What do we do as a community when a child is shot? What do we do when a child is killed?"

During Mayor Muriel Bowser’s press conference on the DC Statehood Senate bill in Congress, she addressed reporters and spoke on the violence. 

“We know what the numbers are, we know where the incidents are, we know the people that need to be addressed,” explained the mayor. "The entire ecosystem that works with public safety is rowing in the right direction."

But is that system moving fast enough? One complaint we hear a lot from community members and councilmembers is there are not enough activities to keep kids off the streets.

And while the Department of Parks and Recreation has hosted all-night parties in the past, most city rec centers are closed on the weekends. Those that are open shut down at 1 p.m. on Saturdays. including Turkey Thicket, the rec right across the street from where 13-year-old Karon Blake was killed. 

WUSA9 reached out to DPR about what they can do to offer more programs and access to kids, but as of publication had not heard back. 

“Programs last for two months, or six weeks or one day and it’s not helping the children,” Hardy said. “I think about a kid that I'm working with, and he was in a program doing very well. I followed up on him the next year and he had did a 360 in the negative way because that program was only there for that moment.”

Hardy is still hopeful and said we can save our children by working together leading with love, consistency and accountability.

"Holding these agencies accountable for what they say they're going to do," she pressed. "If they say they're going to be here for a group of kids, well what does that look like?"

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