Just days before 10 people were killed in a violent July 4th weekend, CeaseFire, the organization that mediates disputes and works to curb gun violence, laid off 150 of its community staff members.
CeaseFire was not included in the state’s 2010 budget.
“Our whole budget got wiped out,” says Tio Hardiman, director of CeaseFire Illinois. “The bottom line is that shootings take place in Chicago all year round. We need to get our people back on the streets.”
Hardiman says he was shocked to learn CeaseFire was not included in the state’s budget, which is now mired in a legislative squabble. It has received state funding in the past, though he says it was not included in the 2008 budget.
Now, CeaseFire is operating with a skeleton staff of 25, funded by foundations.
“The work never stops, that’s what it comes down to,” says Hardiman, who says the organization has reduced gun violence by as much as 83 percent in some areas of Chicago.
Hardiman says he hopes CeaseFire will be back in the state budget plans next year.
“People need to start looking at violence and treating it as a public health issue,” he says. Chicago’s homicide rate is on track to be near its lowest ever. By June 30, 199 people had been murdered.
Still, Hardiman says CeaseFire’s work is important.
“It makes you feel good when you see a young man who’s living today who could have been dead yesterday,” he says.
Daily News Staff Writer Alex Parker covers public health. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 17, or alex [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.