Program Launched To Help Kids Exposed To Violence

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(Memphis) Community violence can have a devastating impact on young people  who often witness shootings, domestic abuse and other crimes.

But there's a new program to help

NOVA, or The Network for Overcoming Violence and Abuse, is a community wide network of agencies reaching out to children exposed to violence.

A 2-million dollar grant is being used to target apartment communities in Hickory Hill and Raleigh-Frayser.

Agape Family Services Counselors will have offices inside the apartments and work directly with families and children on everything from domestic abuse  to dealing with bullies.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell kicked off the effort with a special announcement Wednesday afternoon.

Behind many of the doors at Wingood Manor Apartments in Hickory Hill are violent family problems.

"They have seen their moms being abused by their dad and by her boyfriends coming into the home beating on her. They are dealing with that and also dealing with their own issues from the sexual assault," says Valetina Horton with AGAPE Family Services.

At risk kids are caught in the middle.

It's why Wingood Manor and two other apartments are in line  to get on site help dealing with issues that can tear families apart.

Instead of families having to go out to get services, counselors and therapists are being brought in and setting up offices inside the apartments.

Families connect with counselors for things like sexual abuse, bullying and even parenting support.

"We are trying to create this healthy atmosphere for them so they can have a healthy sense of self," says AGAPE Counselor Tray Beard.

They are hoping the  violence doesn't lead to  behavioral and school problems for the kids.

"Children will imitate what they see and if they see abuse they need somebody to talk to," says Wingood Manor resident LaNellye Stovall.

Connecting with the families where they live is the  key and bringing in community agencies like Agape, Operation Safe Community and churches to find  further ways to help.

The final component is assessing efforts to see if they are working.

"Is there more safety in a community? Are kids more school ready? Are kids graduating? How are families overall doing?" says AGAPE Executive Director David Jordan, listing the questions they will ask to determine the program's success.

AGAPE Counselors have already been meeting with families to see what kind of services they need.

Eight other cities are also doing this, but Memphis is one of the only cities to take the services directly to the place, the apartments, where families live.