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Unifying America: Newark Community Street Team Transforming South Ward Home Into Safe House For Trauma Victims

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- A promising step forward is being taken in Newark, a community hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

A group known for preventing retaliation after crime is focusing on recovery of those impacted by violence and loss, CBS2's Jessica Layton reported Thursday.

On South 16th Street in the heart of the South Ward a house built 111 years ago could be a way forward.

Aqeela Sherrills of the Newark Community Street Team said the area is "where traditionally most of the violence in the city has been concentrated. It got run down because of the trauma."

Inside the new Trauma Recovery Center, the passion project of Sherrills and his community street team is under construction.

READ MOREUnifying America: Newark Community Street Team's Partnership With Police Grows, As City Becomes Safer By The Day

The same guys that walk the streets to promote peace just bought the 4,000 square-foot house, transforming it into a safe place where people will feel at home.

"Black folks and brown folks have a lot of traumatic experiences in terms of government and hospitals," Sherrills said. "So we wanted to get a place that was a home that would be welcoming for folks."

The renovations are a symbolic reflection of those the center will serve -- men and women ready to make changes and confront trauma through the free therapy offered there.

"Change is never comfortable," client Femon Padmore said.

But Padmore knows the benefits first hand.

"I can honestly say it made me a better person, a better man, better friend, a better son," Padmore said.

FLASHBACKCommunity Street Team, De-Escalation Training Credited For Newark's Decreasing Homicide, Violent Crime Rates

And as a woman of color, Quaneshia Johnson says learning new coping skills motivated her to take control of her life in a positive way.

"I'd probably be somewhere in the biggest hole of my lifetime. I'd probably be homeless," Johnson said, when asked what people would be doing without the service the Newark Community Street Team is providing.

"The pandemic has caused a lot of people to lose their jobs, to have strained relationships," program director Seaton Davis said.

Davis says once they move out of their current spot on Hunterdon Street, his clinicians will continue offering individual and group counseling, plus alternative ways of healing like yoga, meditation, and even music and art therapy, which are not always accessible in communities of color. They want people to feel comfortable asking for support. All you have to do is knock on the door.

"I think this house will be a beacon in the community, a beacon of light for people who need help," Davis said.

There will even help for opioid addiction and transitional housing, filling a void for the most vulnerable with a secure place in an uncertain time.

CBS2's Jessica Layton contributed to this report


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