A South Side community organization, backed by University of Chicago Medicine, Northwestern Medicine® and United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, has launched an innovative approach to combat violence and avert behaviors that may lead to conflict by using faith leaders to provide post-trauma counseling and other support.
Before a packed audience at Bright Star Church on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined dozens of leaders from faith organizations, both medical centers and United Way to reveal the new Bronzeville Dream Center. The center, which will be housed initially in Bright Star Church, draws on the model used by NATAL-Israel Trauma Center, which helps residents of communities affected by conflict cope with and reverse the traumatic aftereffects of violence.
“When it comes to violence, the question becomes, ‘Who is there to counsel the perpetrators, victims, their families and friends once the damage is done?'” said the Rev. Chris Harris, founder of Bright Star Community Outreach (BSCO) and senior pastor of Bright Star Church. “It is tremendously important to offer resources to deal with complex emotions and anxieties in the aftermath of violence. Our communities need emotional restoration to break the cycles that caused the violence in the first place.”
Harris was inspired by NATAL’s mission during a visit to the center in 2012. He left Israel determined to bring NATAL’s model back home and shape it for Chicago, starting with his own Bronzeville community. Harris mentioned the idea to Mayor Emanuel when the Mayor visited his church last summer. The Mayor liked the plan, and connected him with Dean M. Harrison, President and CEO of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare.
“A lot of time, the deepest scares are the one you can’t see,” said Mayor Emanuel. “We have a responsibility to deal with both the physical and the emotional. Making sure that a parent, family member or friend is not alone in their loneliest moments is what this center is about. This effort is a great example of what’s possible when community organizations, businesses and City government come together as partners to support families and their communities.”