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How Virginia group is helping families who experienced tragedy: ‘No judgement’

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Posted at 6:12 PM, Sep 08, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. -- It seems like every day families are left struggling with the immense trauma and grief of losing loved ones to senseless gun violence.

Leaders of an area nonprofit said that while they don’t have the answer to solve the issue, they are forging ahead with an important partnership to help steer families in the right direction.

Chenice Johnson and her nonprofit, JUST C, are connecting with families who are grappling with grief after gun violence. 

"We have been servicing families that have been affected by gun violence that just needed a space to vent," Johnson said. "Not necessarily to talk about the case, but to talk about the emotional distress that they have been feeling."

So Johnson says when efforts of the Richmond Health District’s Violence Prevention Department led to partnerships with community activists and groups, her team got on board. 

They established a hotline number (804 505-5545) for victims’ family members and others in the community. 

But Johnson said the group wants to be clear about the hotline's purpose. 

"We are not a tool to solve the case. That’s not what we are doing," Johnson said. "We are the tool to help connect you to the people who can help you process the different level of grieving, what you may be feeling. When you are unsafe, we try to partner you with people who can maybe change the environment you’re in."

When callers dial the number, Johnson said someone will pick up and say they are there to listen. 

"You just give whatever info you want. It’s no judgment. No advice given. We just listen and connect you to the services you need," Johnson said. "Some people don’t want to be connected to mental health services, and that’s fine. Some people just want to have a moment to get out what’s on their heart and that’s what we are doing. Creating a space for that to happen."

Organizers, who obtained grant funding to establish the hotline and for staffing, said families that experience trauma from gun violence and other issues can call that hotline in the coming days. 

"We are just trying to create a space where people have confidence in calling us. They’re trusting us. They can talk about whatever," Johnson said. "It stays at the hotline and then we connect them with resources in the community that can provide things like mental health services amongst other things."  

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