COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX) — On a rainy Friday afternoon in the Hilltop, the community gathered: singing, talking and fighting for a better, safer Columbus.
Inside the new HALT Violence location on West Broad Street, Thell Robinson and his team are trying to mentor kids, squash beef and provide career opportunities.
"We want to hear from them, write it down and implement it," Robinson said.
We got to meet 14-year-old Khadim Ndiaye and his mom, Engja.
"I'm a single mom, and I have three boys, 30, 18, and 14," Engia said. "So he is my last one. I just feel like young boys need a male influence."
There's a bond you immediately recognize, but she felt there were some things she just couldn't offer.
So, she made a proactive step.
"I have been looking for a program for a while and HALT Violence came highly recommended to me," she said. "I really see a difference in my son. I see him using the tools that he's been given."
The eighth grader told ABC 6/FOX 28 he's learned a lot.
"Everything doesn't need a reaction," he said. "I usually have a response for things and he put it where, I didn't have to have a response."
As the HALT Violence team continues their work, many are calling for more efforts to fight back against violence and help young people.
It's an evolving situation we've been looking into for months.
"Something about the size of my pinky can make someone bleed to death right in front of your eyes," Dr. Jonathan Groner said. "The firearm stuff is just so compelling, because it seems so entirely preventable,"
As a trauma surgeon at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Dr. Groner fights back against violence from a different, little heard perspective.
"We are seeing more sort of day-to-day firearm injuries than we have in the past," he said. "I mean, it used to be a pretty rare thing at this hospital. It seems like myself or my colleagues are seeing them much more frequently."
That can impact the victim, their families, and by extension, communities.
"If you're in a home with other kids, the other kids suddenly don't feel safe, or parents don't feel safe, and certainly in this city," Dr. Groner said. "it concentrates on specific specific parts of the city."
What specific parts?
We looked at where homicides are happening in Columbus from January 2023 to mid-March, and you can see some clusters on the south side, parts of Linden and the northeast side, and west side of Columbus.
Dr. Groner also mentions the role of mental health, which the Buckeye Ranch team focuses on.
"There is an increase in the number of kids who both are raising their hand, and who have mental health issues in our community, and we're trying to meet that need," Buckeye Ranch President and CEO Vickie Thompson-Sandy said.
The team there is preparing to open a new mental health facility for youth, partnering with NCH.
"Today, there's a gap in our continuum in this community for that specific youth," she said, "and we see a lot of kids from Ohio, leaving Ohio to get that service. So, this partnership allows us to create another level of care on our campus, so that we will have the traditional Qualified Residential Treatment care, but then the psychiatric residential treatment care and then even a higher level of crisis care for kids who are in crisis, but not needing the high level of psychiatric inpatient."
As groups like the Buckeye Ranch and HALT Violence work to fight back, the words from a young person ring out.
"I feel like a lot of the youth are scared to talk about whatever they want to talk about or need to talk about," Khadim Ndiaye said.
You can see more from the Buckeye Ranch team here discussing the new center and the three groups of kids they are seeing in crisis that fall into a gap that need care right now: