A picture of women posing at Purpose Over Pain's 2023 Mother's Day event.

A New Resource for Victims of Gun Violence

A new resource for families of victims of gun violence was recently released by 2020 Chicago Peace Fellow, Pamela Montgomery-Bosely. Her organization, Purpose Over Pain, launched a 24-hour crisis response hotline for people coping with the loss of a loved one from violence. The hotline is active from 7pm on Friday to 7pm on Sunday and can be reached by dialing 872-3CRISIS  or (872) 327-4747.

Providing Crisis Support for Victims of Gun Violence

Since its inception in 2007, Purpose Over Pain has expanded from a small non-profit run by parents of victims of gun violence to an organization with full-time staff that work Monday through Friday. The organization provides positive development activities for children and youth, advocates for and promotes safer communities, and strengthens families by providing crisis support to parents or guardians whose children have been victimized. Most of Purpose Over Pain’s services are provided on weekdays, which up until now has left a gap in the services provided to families of victims of gun violence over the weekend.

a flyer showing information about the gun violence victims hotline.

The crisis response hotline is intended to serve families at any point during the weekend, which is when the number of incidents tends to peak. Prior to opening the hotline, Purpose Over Pain would receive messages and calls throughout the weekend from people needing support after friends or family members had been shot. Pam explains: “Over the weekend, people struggle, because that's when the violence is extremely high. So, while we are available Monday through Friday, I wanted to be available on the weekends, but not my full time staff since they are survivors too.” 

Purpose Over Pain hired four operators to work the gun violence prevention hotline over the weekend, so that Purpose Over Pain’s existing staff would not be overburdened. All of the operators have first hand experience with gun violence, having lost either children or relatives, and are trained to listen to and provide guidance to people dealing with a tragic loss. Pam describes the role of the responders:

We want to be there to support people and let them know that they’re not alone. Our staff is there to listen. Many parents have their children shot and killed in the middle of the night and might receive a call at 2 in the morning with the news. You can’t sleep after news like that, so we wanted to make sure that there is someone there to listen to them, to provide support, to provide guidance, and to provide resources.

Pam also works on the hotline covering for the other responders in case they are unavailable or if it is the anniversary date of their loved one being murdered. 

Resources Shared on the Hotline

Resources that the operators can link victims include support circles, counseling, financial resources, and job programs. Purpose Over Pain offers memorial services, support days, and mentoring sessions as part of its regular programming. Hotline operators can also link victims to outside resources. For instance, hotline operators often help victims fill out a Crime Victim Compensation Form. This form is part of the Illinois Attorney General’s Crime Victims Compensation Program which is intended to reduce the financial burden imposed on victims of violent crime and their families by providing up to $45,000 for expenses incurred by eligible victims as a result of a violent crime. Purpose Over Pain also has a full resource book that can link victims to programs that provide housing, food, clothes, and jobs. They network with other organizations, such as St. Sabina’s, so that they can connect victims with resources close to them and that are relevant to their needs. 

Purpose Over Pain’s hotline is the first of its kind in Chicago, previously there was no 24-hour crisis hotline for the friends and families of victims of gun violence. Now, victims can be supported by community members that have lived through similar experiences. Pam emphasizes, “When you call and they pick up the phone you’ll have a survivor, someone who understands what you’re going through. It’s not like you’re getting an automated message, you’re getting a live voice. I don’t want people to think they’re alone because they’re not, we’re here for them.” The Purpose Over Pain hotline has been created by community members for community members and will continue to provide pertinent and needed care.

Peace is Blooming in Chicago

On Sunday, May 3rd the Chicago Peace Fellows launched the Peace Flowers campaign by delivering over 75 flower bouquets to mothers that have lost children to violence.

The Peace Flowers campaign is a collective response from the Chicago Peace Fellows Mutual Aid Collaborative comprised of 38 peace organizations throughout Chicago who are working togehter to address the twin epidemics of COVID-19 and violence in Chicago.

Violence is rising in Chicago in the same south and west side neighborhoods most impacted by COVID-19 where the Peace Fellows live and work.  With funding for frontline peace-building organizations often diverted to respond to the coronavirus, the Mutual Aid Collaborative is building sustainable social impact models to raise funds and create jobs.

"Peace Flowers is an innovative and easy way to fund these organizations while also investing in sustainable job creation on the south and west side of Chicago where these lovely blooms are grown."

Quilen Blackwell, Chicago Peace Fellow, Chicago Eco House

Pamela Bosley, Co-founder of Purpose Over Pain, works with mothers to connect them with each other to build a community of support.

“Many of the moms have a hard time with Mother’s Day. With the pandemic, it’s been even harder. Many mothers are reporting problems with depression and other issues related to being disconnected.”

Pamela Bosley, Chicago Peace Fellow, Purpose Over Pain

Quilen Blackwell, Owner of Southside Blooms, a social enterprise that helps youth in Englewood find opportunities in urban farming. They work to build a sense of entrepreneurship to help youth see opportunity and way out of drug trade. Quilen saw an opportunity to support Pamela’s group by providing them with beautiful bouquets in honor of Mother’s Day and to help lift their spirits. “The flower market is in huge disruption right now. 80% of flowers are imported from overseas and due to the trade issues related to the corona virus, most flowers need to come from domestic sources.” Quilen noted.

AnnaMaria Leon, Co-owner of Homan Grown, saw a collaboration in the making. She noted how this idea can be more than just a single action but, can be a part of a broader strategy to support mothers and fund projects for the Chicago Peace Fellows. She contacted her friend, Pascal Sabino, a local reporter for Block Club Chicago who wrote a powerful article about the project.  The story was also featured by ABC7 in this compelling feature.

Once the funding and logistics were done, the team came together to prepare and deliver the flowers. The flowers were delivered to families across Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. The deliveries added a personal touch because they were distributed by Southside Blooms, Annamaria, and myself as Director of the Chicago Peace Fellows.

"I personally got the witness the joy and gratitude of the moms who received bouquets. It was a very moving experience to hand out flowers and cards that reminded the moms “You are not forgotten.”

Burrell Poe, Director, Chicago Peace Fellows

The deliveries were bittersweet, acknowleging the loss of family members but also because the deliveries were contact-less. No handshakes, no hugs, and at least 6ft of physical distance. Masks, gloves and hand sanitizer made this gesture different that it would have been prior to COVID-19. However, it made it all the more important because, people are suffering on top of the suffering that has already befallen their lives.

"Wonderful. Wonderful, it really made my day," said Elizabeth Bolden, a mother who received the bouquet.

The project has thus far raised over $5000 on GoFundMe and is entering into the next phase of it's social impact model where the public can purchase a subscription for flower delivery that also funds violence prevention work through the Chicago Peace Fellows Mutual Aid Collaborative.

Project oragnizers at Southside Blooms and Homan Grown will hire local youth to grow and arrange the flowers and donate a percent of their sales through the Peace Flowers campaign to support this network grassroots peace organizations on the West and South sides of Chicago plagued by the twin epidemics of violence and COVID-19.

"The goal is to create a long term sustainable funding stream for peace organizations in Chicago so that these groups have greater freedom at doing what they do best: making Chicago a more peaceful and beautiful place to live!"

Learn more about the Peace Flowers program at SouthSide Blooms