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Mayor Hancock, Executive Director O’Malley and Faith Leaders Launch Safe Haven Community Healing Initiative

DENVER – Mayor Michael B. Hancock, Executive Director of Public Safety Stephanie Y. O’Malley and faith leaders today launched Safe Haven – a faith led initiative designed to support community members who are struggling with trauma, fear or frustration as a result of gang violence.

“Safe Haven will aid community healing and support the wellbeing of residents exposed to violence in a safe, supportive, community-based environment,” Mayor Hancock said. “Under the leadership of our faith community, we’re going to bring a community response to these terrible acts when they occur to support those affected however we can.”

Through a partnership with the Gang Reduction Initiative of Denver (GRID), over 20 churches across the city have signed up and received training to serve as safe locations where anyone in the community can go to receive support services following a critical, gang-related incident.

“We heard the community. The City has heard the community. So, we are coming together and creating this space in not only our churches, but in our synagogues, in our mosques and our other worship centers,” Pastor Terrence Hughes said. “Those are the natural places for us to have the gathering because they have been the models for spiritual and safe havens throughout our history as people here in America.”

Following an incident, the closest participating church is activated for three days, and church members from the Safe Haven network volunteer their time to support a community healing process. Safe Haven volunteers have been trained in psychological first aid, disaster spiritual care, critical response training, and asset-based community development for churches.

“We need to be there for one another when incidents occur that threaten our wellbeing and the wellbeing of our neighborhoods,” Pastor Phil Abeyta said. “Safe Haven will allow us to do just that.”

Emotional and mental wellness specialists are also on-site to provide professional support and to connect residents with more in-depth services, if desired. The type of care attendees receive will depend on what they need to support their unique healing process

“If spiritual care is sought, church members can pray with community members, discuss their concerns, or simply listen,” Executive Director O’Malley said. “If social care for the emotional impact the incident caused is needed, neighbors and community members can offer compassionate support and help residents talk through what they are feeling.  And if community members want wellness care, Safe Haven staff can share information about identifying trauma, understanding how it can affect the body and mind, and coping strategies that support healing.” 

Interpreters will be on hand to assist community members who do not speak English, and food and childcare is available to those who visit activated safe havens.

For a list of participating Safe Haven locations, visit www.denvergov.org/grid.

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