KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kalamazoo-area nonprofit is looking to help curb and reduce gun violence in the area through a comprehensive initiative that’s been in the works over the last two years.

The Kalamazoo Community Foundation calls it the Blueprint for Peace.

Since its inception two years ago, Jennifer Heymoss, who serves as their vice president of initiatives and public policy, said the long-term plan looks at the issue through a public health lens.

“It’s all of these different root causes,” Heymoss said. “It’s access to health, access to economic stability, thinking about housing, thinking about education, thinking about living environment — what is your neighborhood like? All of that is part of taking a public health approach to ending violence.”

The blueprint’s six goals are outlined as:

  • Stop the Shooting, Stop the Violence
  • Increase Access and Build Capacity for Healing and Community Restoration
  • Support Children, Youth & Families
  • Cultivate Economic Stability
  • Foster Safe and Strong Neighborhoods
  • Strengthen Capacity and Coordination

Since 2021, after the city and county declared gun violence a public health crisis, 103 households received assistance and 41 people were served by community violence intervention programs funded by federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.

“It’s the people who go to these organizations and say, ‘I need help,'” Heymoss explained. “They have experienced violence directly; they are related to someone who has experienced violence, (or) they might want to enact violence on another person and say, ‘I need help, like I don’t know what to do.'”

During Kalamazoo City Commission’s committee of the whole meeting Aug. 7, the United Way of South Central Michigan reported more than $297,000 was spent of around $793,000 in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan through June 30. The funds were granted in October 2022 on a two-year term.

With 215 programs and organizations involved, Heymoss said the plan also emphasizes proactive prevention methods, like street outreach.

“They will find them, connect with them, and try to plug them into resources. So, it’s not just waiting for people to come to them. It’s these folks who work tirelessly, who have been for decades, who are out doing the work.”

Some of the participating organizations include ISAAC, Urban Alliance, HOPE Through Navigation, and the Urban Alliance.

As of Monday, KDPS said Kalamazoo has 12 homicides so far this year, passing 2022’s year total of 11. While those numbers are concerning, Heymoss said the work is systemic, which will take a few years to materialize.

“If we don’t figure out what long term solutions look like, we’re going to have another summer that looks like this summer,” she added. “We’re going to have another summer and another summer, and it’s just going to keep repeating.”

Heymoss also said it’s also a call for further communication and collaboration from community partners and neighbors, wanting to keep their home safe.

“It’s a call for people to just work together across neighborhoods, across different organizations, across sectors to support people who need it the most,” she said.

Heymoss said the organization is still sorting out what the next steps are for the plan, including goals and how progress will be measured through data.