On a mission for peace, program treats violence like an addiction

The Street Addiction Institute in Syracuse has won a grant to expand

SYRACUSE (WSYR-TV) - Timothy Jennings-Bey gets an alert on his phone when 911 dispatchers hear about violence in Syracuse, often in the middle of the night when others are sleeping.

Police say there have been 16 homicides in the city so far this year. There are 103 reports of shooting victims.

"It hurts bad because we know these young people. We know the families and we are left with the aftermath because once this happens to a family, that family is never the same," he says. "The community is never the same."

A southside native, Jennings-Bey founded the Street Addiction Institute (SAI) two years ago because he believes street violence is an addiction.

"There is no physical space to deal with the trauma, the grief, the loss, the depression, the addiction, and all these things that can work on an individual to lead them to participate in violence or become a victim," Jennings-Bey adds.

SAI now has about thirty people to help with the mission, mostly volunteers who agree to be on-call 24-hours a day for the sake of their neighborhoods. 

As police investigate crime reports, SAI volunteers and workers meet victims and their families on the streets and in the hospital. 

Jennings-Bey says a partnership with Syracuse University offers the opportunity for follow-up counseling.

Now, the Community Foundation is offering a $50,000 grant to expand the program's reach.

"When someone has been offended or nearly killed and might be looking for revenge or some other sort of retribution, this group is right there in the thick of it, helping people to make better decisions," says Frank Ridzi with the CNY Community Foundation.

Jennings-Bey knows reversing generations of violent neighborhood feuds is a tall order but he's still dreaming.

His big goal is to buy a physical space for the Street Addiction Institute one day...an actual building where people can go for support and rehabilitation. 

"I feel like this is my purpose, this is my calling. This is why God placed me on earth for this specific time, to help people heal because people are hurting and when people are hurting, they want other people hurt."

Click here for a link to SAI's Facebook page.

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