C-U Fresh Start working to improve lives

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CHAMPAIGN COUNTY — A program to curb gun violence is slowly progressing. C-U Fresh Start supporters have been at it for the last year and know their work is far from over.

Offenders in the program have two choices: put the guns down for good or spend time behind bars. Currently, 13 men are still with the program and supporters are learning change can’t happen overnight.

“Help them change their lives and put themselves in better situations to make better decisions.”

The main purpose of C-U Fresh Start is to change the number of people involved in gun crimes.

“In 2016, we’ve had 112 shootings. Absolutely unacceptable for us as a community.”

Tracy Parsons has spent the last year working with the program. In that time, he says 13 men have been part of the effort.

“We’re in this together. Law enforcement can’t arrest their way out of this problem. It really will take a comprehensive community response.”

Parsons has turned to Vivian Gray for some assistance. Gray came here form Jamaica where he worked on a similar project.

“A lot of these communities, where you have high levels of violence, tend to be communities that, for a long period of time, they’ve been under-served.”

Both men say they have their work cut out for them, but they’re going to continue fighting for change.

“We take it day-by-day and try not to get too low with the lows and too high with the highs.”

C-U Fresh Start uses call-ins to get people involved in the program. One was held in October and another in March. Six people have stayed with the program since March.

The purpose of the initiative is to get people to change their lives around. Parsons says the men are some of the highest offenders in our area. They work with parole officers and case managers.

Some goals the men have are finding jobs and staying out of jail.

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