Illinois Legal Aid: How one man looks to build sustainable solutions to gun violence and poverty in Champaign County

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CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA)–While cities across Central Illinois looks for solution to gun violence, one man from Rantoul said he’s a part of a program that can help.

Jerome White is building a network of ‘Community Navigators’ as a part of Illinois Legal Aid, a paralegal outreach group for low-income communities. For a $2,000 monthly stipend, these ‘navigators’ would go door-to-door educating people on all the resources Illinois Legal Aid provides.

White previously served 26 years in prison. He was inside for a murder case he was involved in that was later overturned. Ever since, he’s dedicated himself to making sure others aren’t trapped in the same system he was.

“Last month made 13 years since I’ve been home,” White said. “Since then I was working for attorneys as a paralegal, case investigator and a special process server.”

He joined Illinois Legal Aid last year during the pandemic. The group provides personal, civil and criminal legal advice to people most affected in these areas. White said gun violence and poverty at large are outward manifestations of a larger problem.

“What’s going on today, with this gun violence, gun play, murders, it’s nothing new,” White said. “Stats show that it’s nothing new.”

He’s calling for city leaders to make long-term investments in Black and Brown communities, in the form of stable employment and affordable housing opportunities.

“These kids, If they could find a viable job, they won’t throw bricks at the penitentiary,” White said “All they want is a nice car, to take care of their girls and their kids, and a nice home.”

The next step is getting more boots on the ground. If you’re interested in becoming a community navigator, click the link here. If you’re looking for general legal advice, you can start your search here.

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