Charlotte, N.C. – To help curb the violence on the Beatties Ford Road corridor, Charlotte’s Alternatives to Violence (ATV) team recently hosted “Let’s Talk,” one of many steps towards building community bonds and trust with and among residents of the Beatties Ford Road corridor.
“Alternatives to Violence is putting on events like these to at least give the community a platform to speak up about what’s important to them,” said ATV Site Supervisor Earl Owens. “As time moves on, we hope more people in the neighborhood will feel more comfortable in speaking up and trusting us.”
The City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, in collaboration with Cure Violence Global (CVG) and Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc., launched the program a year ago in response to reducing violence along Beatties Ford Road. The ATV team is made up of deeply rooted people who have served as volunteers, activists, and advocates in and around Beatties Ford Road – where most of them also grew up or went to high school.
YAP, a national nonprofit in 33 states and the District of Columbia, has a 47-year history of providing community-based alternatives to youth incarceration, out-of-home child welfare, behavioral health, and intellectual disabilities placements.
A former gang member, Owens, knows first-hand the challenges faced by individuals and families he meets in his day-to-day work. Six years ago, he was paroled after spending 13 years of a 20-year sentence. He wasn’t scheduled to be set free until December 23, 2023. When Owens, a southern California native, reentered society in North Carolina, he knew the challenges and barriers associated with having a criminal history.
“I had to reinvent myself. It wasn’t until I came to this town (Charlotte), a Black town [compared to the city where he grew up], that I was afforded the opportunity to meet some people who introduced me to people to be able to do what I am doing now,” Owens shared. “You got to have support, you got to have people that care about what happens to you. That’s why programs like Alternatives to Violence are needed. We’re trying to make a difference, helping to raise awareness about the alternatives that there are to violence, selling drugs, getting into trouble, and other things.”
At the “Let’s Talk” event, the ATV team, in conjunction with Atrium Health’s Violence Intervention Program and Fifth Third Bank, provided information and resources on financial literacy, affordable housing and real estate, and how ATV can connect young people to educational, economic and emotional support. The event was held at Cosmopolitan Community Church, off of Beatties Ford Road.
Wesley Head, a branch manager of a Fifth Third Bank in Charlotte, discussed the significance of good credit and financial wellness, while a realtor spoke about home ownership and affordable housing.
“We work with a lot of students and even small children about the importance of finances,” Head said. “The earlier they get that knowledge, the better off they’ll be. I know what it’s like to not have the same resources as someone else or the same resources.”
ATV hosts monthly community programming to engage and educate people within the community. Before the event ended, Owens offered a participation challenge to attendees, explaining that community members should care about what happens to their neighbors.
“The next time we have an event, I want you to invite 10 people,” he said. “Now is the time for all of us to get involved in this.”