Carmel Magazine

Carmel Magazine, spring 2018

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world as a dark and scary place and I assumed that people wanted to hurt you. There were no good people in the world. I turned to drinking and taking pills and I would self-harm." With Leavy's suppor t, Alvarez joined a girls' teen enrichment camp that Harmony at Home sponsors on proper ties including those pre- served by the Big Sur Land Trust. (Leavy's par- ents Zad and Laela were among the founders of BSLT.) "The first camp was amazing," Alvarez says. "It totally turned my life around. It was the first time I was around other girls my age who understood hur t like I did and what it was like to keep secrets within the family and the first time I didn't feel alone…I formed some life- long friendships." Alvarez says talking to Leavy made her feel like her choices and feelings mattered. "We talked about breaking cycles and how that can create a ripple effect," she says. "If I'm healing, it can help other people heal." Alvarez took that advice to heart: she's worked as a teen mentor and is now a wellness navigator for those with mental health chal- lenges at Interim, Inc. at the OMNI Resource Center, and at Monterey County's Bienestar Integrated Healthcare Clinic. "At one point in my life I figured I'd end up on streets or dead," she says, "and I would have been except for Harmony at Home. I'm really happy now and I'm willing to be that voice for others." For more information, or to donate, please go to 210 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 Tina Ramos teaches 6th grade at Monterey Park; Santos Rodriguez is a Playworks Coach; and Mariko Caster is a Special Day Class teacher. J osé Arreola is the Community Safety Administrator for the city of Salinas and the Director of CASP, the Community Alliance for Safety and Peace. In 2009, he says, the city of Salinas set a record for homicides and vio- lence, exceeding cities like Chicago and Detroit for incidences per capita. At the time, Salinas violence was primarily made up of gang-based crimes with victims and perpetrators mostly under the age of 24. "It is really a staggering problem," Arreola says. "CASP was formed by the power brokers in the County who came together to strategize, 'What can we do better to address the issue?'" The organization now meets twice a month with more than 50 local agencies. "Agencies like Harmony at Home have an outsized impact," says Arreola. "They are not necessarily directly working with gang-involved youth but working with siblings and families and much further downstream at early ages. It has a huge impact for potentially not repeating violence from family members…One of the roots of gang violence is angry young men who have a lot of history with domestic violence..." According to Arreola, youth violence is down 60 percent since CASP formed in 2009, but little is being done on the re-entry piece for ex-con- victs coming back into society. "We have had an uptick in adult violence," he says. "What has happened is there has been a large-scale release of prisoners coming back to our communities with very little services and support, and difficulties…The very thing we want people to do is have people earn an honest living and we ham- string them. They can't get work after prison…Those [gang] environ- ments still exist and are ready and waiting when they get out." For more information on CASP, go to Salinas Community Safety Administrator, José Arreola. A Call to End Salinas Violence

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