A new job center has opened at the Al Chappelle Community Center through the mayor’s office and the anti-violence program, Employment Connection.
“If this program was not brought to the community and if it wasn’t made available, I would have been back outside and been a problem out here,” says Site Manager, Chris Jones.
“It’s the projects. It’s like a city within a city, says resident and Employment Connection employee, Samir Simpson-Bey “I’m an ex-gang banger from down here. I was born down here. Lost two brothers down here and a nephew, so it hit me different.”
In January, a 5-year-old boy accidentally shot himself in a home on LaSalle Park Court.
Samir tells News 4 his change comes after time in prison and attending more than 100 funerals.
“Some people don’t know how to ask for help so by me being of the community and they seeing the change in me, this is one of the best things that can really happen,” he says.
Employment Connection has assisted at-risk residents in the Peabody Darst-Webbe and LaSalle Park neighborhood with violence de-escalation since Fall 2022.
The program was brought to St. Louis through the Cure Violence initiative and are responsible for providing jobs, emergency housing, utility assistance and health services to Wells-Goodfellow, Hamilton Heights, and Dutchtown.
“When the world shuts down like you’ve never seen before, and you don’t have no other options the first thing you think about it going back to the streets,” says Jones. “So they caught me at a transitional moment.”
Jones lost his job during the pandemic and was homeless before he became a client and full-time Employment Connection employee.
“They don’t just get us back into self-sufficiency and being able to make money but they teach us how to manage our money the proper way,” he says.
Neighborhood voices like Charles Hatley are also being brought in to steer community members in the right direction to decrease crime. He works specifically with violence prevention and de-escalation in the city’s most dangerous zip codes.
“I knew I was a part of the problem for a long time and I was influencing other people to follow my directive,” says Charles Hatley of Employment Connection. “They need a voice that they can listen to. I’m from the same group so I can identify what’s going on. I speak their language. I understand the culture.”
For assistance or information on Employment Connection contact Sal Martinez at (314) 333-5622 or email firstname.lastname@example.org