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As Youth Violence Surges, Community Leaders And Street Outreach Workers Look For Answers

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Community leaders met with street outreach workers to talk about answers as youth violence surges.

"We have had escalating violence in our community and nationally. As folks started to get back out after COVID, there was a sudden rise all over the country," said Amber Sloan, a former gang member turned outreach worker.

Behind that rise in teenage shootings and school violence, the outreach workers say, is the pandemic — it's stresses, anxiety, time away from school, and problems at home.

"It's almost like shaking a pop can, and the can keeps on shaking. The smallest thing makes it explode," said Rev. Cornell Jones of Iron Cross Community Ministries.

More than anything, these outreach workers say the crisis in violence is a mental health crisis. A year away from school spent in troubled homes, producing gun-toting kids living rudderless lives on the street.

Sloan says those kids and their families need counseling and support to find ways of dealing with the stress.

"For me, it's got to be mental health cause that is what keeps me grounded. That's why I tell everybody I want you to try mental health once. If it doesn't work, try something else," she said.

At the forum hosted by the organization 1Hood on Tuesday, Rev. Jones said only a small percentage of the youth are committed to this life of violence. He said the rest can find their way out when provided the right avenues.

"There's less than 3 percent who are really committing the violence. Understanding that the rest are people who are like, 'I don't want this life,'" he said.

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