COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Following the recent deaths of several children and teenagers, community groups across Columbus are trying to figure out what can be done to stop violence in the city.
On Thursday night, Keith Neal shared his story and message with neighbors on the west side. The conversation about youth violence in the city was organized by the Highland West Civic Association.
“We have gotten away from living how to treat your brother, treat somebody like you want to be treated so tonight is just a conversation about respect, dignity and integrity,” said Neal.
Neal has mentored kids for decades. He was the director of the former J. Ashburn Youth Center for 38 years. He said any violence is heartbreaking, especially youth violence, and that the community needs more role models to help steer children in the right direction.
“I was strong-headed,” Neal said of when he was a child. “I did things I wasn’t supposed to do, but it was all those mentors that saved me and made me the man I am today. So don’t forget where you came from.”
Neal’s discussion on Thursday night was not the only event in the city working towards stemming the violence. The non-profit Halt Violence gathered by the intersection of East Livingston Avenue and South 22nd Street to share housing and job resources with community members.
Halt Violence’s CEO, Thell Robinson III, said helping get people situated with what they need can also help prevent violence. He also said the community needs more mentors — and wants parents to know it is OK to ask for help.
“When a parent reaches out to an agency or program for mentorship, it’s not saying they’re failing as parents,” he said. “It’s just that they need assistance, so there’s nothing wrong with getting assistance.”