We are driven to: decrease shootings and homicides among those at highest risk of gun violence; create new opportunities for these same individuals to change their life trajectory and decrease their involvement with the criminal justice system; and help build an infrastructure at the community level to promote long-term safety and opportunity in Chicago's most impoverished communities.
“It makes guys who never would have said anything to each other in the street talk and put their differences aside. I know I react to situations differently. I think more, take more responsibility and think about the consequences.”
Between 2015 and 2016, Chicago experienced a 57% increase in gun violence, recording 769 homicides. We have experienced declines in both shootings and homicides in 2017 and 2018 that are continuing into the first half of 2019; however, gun violence remains at elevated levels. Last year, 2,900 individuals were shot and 575 were killed in gun homicides.
Gun violence in Chicago remains a crisis concentrated among a small number of highly disadvantaged neighborhoods, disproportionately impacting our most vulnerable citizens. Despite containing only 8% of Chicago’s population, just five neighborhoods accounted for 30% of the homicides in 2018.
Most gun violence victims and suspects in Chicago are African American men in their 20s and 30s, with low levels of education and extensive criminal records, resulting in limited access to viable and stable employment, housing, legal services, and behavioral health supports.
There is no one solution to gun violence, and there are a number of promising approaches being implemented in Chicago. We launched READI Chicago because we believe that connecting the highest risk people to critical supports has the potential to save lives now, and to create greater opportunity and safety over the long term for those who are most highly impacted by violence.
We are seeking to connect 750 men in jobs by summer 2020.
We are focused on those who are at highest risk of gun violence involvement.
Our staff bring lived experience, credibility and compassion to their approach to building relationships with men who have been disconnected and have strong incentives to stay off the grid. Our participants are together building a new network of men seeking to become positive forces in their families and communities.
It’s a 24-month program that fully supports participant success – including when they have setbacks. READI Chicago’s developmental pathway model is designed to support their continued personal development and sustainable employment after READI Chicago completion.
The University of Chicago Crime and Poverty labs are rigorously evaluating the program’s effectiveness in order to understand its impact and potential to expand if results are strong.
The READI Chicago team at Heartland Alliance collectively brings over 50 years of experience and is working hand-in-hand with the local partner organization staff to bring about real change in the lives of participants, and their communities.
Eddie Bocanegra joined Heartland Alliance in June 2017 as senior director of READI Chicago. In this role, he oversees the management and implementation of the evidence-based and trauma-informed program to reduce gun violence and promote safety and opportunity in the city.
As a pioneer in the field, Mr. Bocanegra brings years of experience in community-based organizations and programs created to address trauma and build resiliency among those most impacted by violence. Most recently, he served as executive director for the YMCA of Chicago’s Youth Safety and Violence Prevention program, where he was responsible for the programs that focused on trauma-informed approaches, such as Urban Warriors and Bridging the Divide.
Prior to working at the YMCA, Mr. Bocanegra was the congregational organizer for Community Renewal Society, where he led FORCE (Fighting to Overcome Records and Create Equality), a coalition that advocates for increased opportunities for the formerly incarcerated. He also worked as a violence interrupter for Chicago’s CeaseFire and was featured in the award-winning documentary The Interrupters. His work has been highlighted on CBS, NPR, and other local media outlets.
Mr. Bocanegra holds both a master’s and bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Chicago and Northeastern Illinois University, respectively. Previously he served on Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Commission for a Safer Chicago, and most recently he co-chaired Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Public Safety and Accountability Commission for a Safer Chicago.
Mr. Bocanegra is a committee member of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Leadership Council and a board member of Illinois’ Juvenile Justice Initiative. Currently he serves as a trustee for the Council of Criminal Justice. He has been featured in the novels “Bleeding Out” by Thomas Abt, “An American Summer” by Alex Kotlowitz, and “Jesus Saved an Ex-Con” by Edward Flores, as well as the “Chicago Stories” podcast with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Mr. Bocanegra has presented and spoken at the United Nations, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and various institutions including Harvard University, Yale University, and Columbia University. The U.S. Department of State has invited Mr. Bocanegra to the U.S. Embassies in Madrid, Haiti, and Uganda on the topic of trauma and its relation to community violence.
Miguel Cambray joined Heartland Alliance in August 2017 as Director of Employment for READI Chicago. In this role, he manages the development and implementation of career pathways for project community partners and program participants.
Over the last 15 years, Mr. Cambray has held various positions within community-based nonprofit organizations and in higher education. Most recently, he was the Director for TRIO Education Opportunity Center at National Louis University working with several schools and organizations on the Southwest Side of Chicago providing access opportunities to higher education.
Previously, he served as the Director of Multicultural Student Services at Lewis University, the founding Director for the Latino Resource Center at Northeastern Illinois University. He has worked on special policy groups with the Illinois African American and Latino Higher Education Alliance (IALHEA) and Illinois Latino Council on Higher Education (ILACHE).
Mr. Cambray holds a bachelor degree in Law and Justice Studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago, a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Northeastern Illinois University. He is pursuing his doctorate in Community Psychology from National Louis University.
Marci Kresin joined Heartland Alliance in July 2017 as Director of Operations for READI Chicago. In this role, she is responsible for aligning and implementing activities related to business and operations functions
Ms. Kresin has more than 25 years of non-profit and operations experience. Most recently, she served as the Chief Operating Officer for WINGS, the largest domestic violence organization in Illinois. In this capacity, she was responsible for the organization’s daily functioning, growth, and sustainability.
She has previously held a number of positions within Heartland Alliance Health including leading the business operations for the organization, including its Federally Qualified Health Center, which is dedicated to providing healthcare for individuals who are homeless and with limited access to care. Ms. Kresin also served in various administrative and clinical management positions in residential and outpatient settings within the Mental Health & Addiction Services division.
She began her career at Community Counseling Centers of Chicago (C4), assisting adults with severe mental illness and later led the organization’s Emergency Services Department. During this period, she developed a behavioral health treatment and discharge planning team, established a private hospital partnership, and chaired a network of 15 service providers focused on service integration and community resource development for mental health services.
Ms. Kresin has a bachelor’s degree in counseling from Southern Illinois University. She has worked to promote and advocate for quality behavioral health services as a member of the Mental Health Summit and a statewide Mental Health Committee.
Chasda Martin joined Heartland Alliance in March 2019 as Director of Programs for READI Chicago. In this role, he is responsible for quality program execution, outcome management, strategic leadership, and successful implementation of READI Chicago from initial engagement through graduation across partner sites and communities.
Compiling 15 years of experience, Mr. Martin has served vulnerable Chicago communities through public and private entities to increase access to clinical services, administer family service programs, develop quality of life resources, bridge sustainable partnerships, and provide consultation to nonprofit organizations on a wide range of social impact initiatives. Most recently, he served as a regional engagement manager within Chicago Public Schools to design, implement, and facilitate opportunities for local stakeholders to impact school quality.
Mr. Martin received a Bachelor’s of Science in Education and Social Policy from Northwestern University and a Master’s degree in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago.
Javon Gregoire joined Heartland Alliance in July 2019 as Deputy Director for READI Chicago. In this role, she aids the Senior Director and staff in overseeing the management and implementation of READI Chicago.
Mrs. Gregoire is an agent of social change who has dedicated her professional career to creating influential systems that bring meaningful resources and impact to marginalized and underserved populations. Most recently, she served the Chief of Staff for the Division of Family and Community Services within the state of Illinois’ Department of Human Services, overseeing programs providing services to more than 2.9 million people. She has worked with several legislative focus groups to recommend state policy modifications and was charged with leading key work groups in developing state plans for federal funding.
Mrs. Gregoire holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a master’s degree in professional counseling from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology.
Marlon Chamberlain joined Heartland Alliance on August 7th 2017 as Community Project Manager for READI Chicago. In this role, he manages day-to-day operations and participant outreach within the Englewood and West Englewood communities.
For more than 20 years, Mr. Chamberlain has developed a strong background and lived experiences with populations who have been impacted by the criminal justice system. Most recently, he was the lead organizer of FORCE (Fighting to Overcome Records & Create Equality), an initiative of the Community Renewal Society. In this capacity, he led efforts to approve legislation that removed collateral consequences for people with records in Illinois.
Mr. Chamberlain is an active community member and works with congregations to promote police accountability, restorative justice practices, educational funding, and community benefits agreement for neighborhoods of color.
In 2014, he received the Purdy award from Community Renewal Society which recognizes outstanding leadership in organizing and policy. He also has received the outstanding community leadership award from Dawson Technical Institute in recognition of his mentorship and trainings on civic engagement, and is expected to receive the visionary award from the Safer Foundation. He is furthering his education at Kennedy-King College and will attend Northeastern University in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in social work.
Floyd Stafford joined Heartland Alliance in August 2017 as Community Project Manager for READI Chicago. In this role, he manages day-to-day operations and participant outreach within the North Lawndale.
For more than 10 years, Mr. Stafford has been involved in programs and initiatives that support those who have been impacted by the criminal justice system. Most recently, he served as the Legislative Coordinator for the Cook County Justice Advisory Council (JAC), where he worked to preserve public safety, reduce recidivism, and promote fair and equitable access at the Cook County Jail and Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. As a legislative coordinator, Mr. Stafford also was responsible for the JAC’s legislative agenda and coalition building efforts.
Mr. Stafford is the co-founder of The Alumni Association, a peer support network for the formerly incarcerated. He is also a former leader of the Community Renewal Society’s FORCE (Fighting to Overcome Records and Create Equality) program, a coalition that advocates for increased opportunities for the formerly incarcerated.
Mr. Stafford has a master’s degree in social work, and health administration and policy from the University of Chicago.
Kimeco Roberson joined Heartland Alliance in July 2018 as Community Project Manager for READI Chicago. In this role, she manages day-to-day operations and participant outreach within the Austin and West Garfield Park communities.
Ms. Roberson has professionally served Chicago’s communities since 2003. Her career began in youth development, coordinating resources for underserved communities, leading her to further advance in civic and community engagement. Her portfolio of work includes representing a number of established nonprofit, city, state, and community organizations in multilevel leadership and administrative roles.
Ms. Roberson’s passion for arts and social justice deepened through working with Chicago’s youth, work that led her to become a trained circle keeper and an inaugural fellow of the Latino Policy Forum’s Multi Leadership Academy. She is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago.
Sophia Manuel joined Heartland Alliance in July 2018 as the Corrections Project Manager for READI Chicago. In this role, she develops and manages pathways for individuals returning from incarceration to become READI Chicago participants.
After working for several years as an investigator of police misconduct for the City of New York, Ms. Manuel turned her focus toward re-entry, at both the policy and direct service levels. She spent a summer with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, where she helped develop and oversee the implementation of programs for people with mental illness leaving jail. She also did a clinical internship with TASC inside the Cook County Jail, where she assessed individuals who were about to be released and referred them to community-based providers.
Ms. Manuel has dual master’s degrees in social work and public policy from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in development studies from Brown University.
Terri Mariano joined Heartland Alliance in May 2019 as the Safety Manager for READI Chicago. In this role, she is responsible for working with READI Chicago’s leaders and partners, and Heartland Alliance’s Enterprise Risk Management team, to develop, implement, and manage safety and security efforts to support READI Chicago staff and participants at program sites, work crew locations, and during transportation activities.
Prior to joining Heartland Alliance, Ms. Mariano worked as a Senior Coach Manager in North Lawndale for READI Chicago since its launch in 2017. Ms. Mariano provided trauma-informed clinical services in the Illinois Youth Centers for eight years under the state Juvenile Forensic Trauma Project and two years providing clinical services for children and families involved in the Department of Child and Family Services.
Ms. Mariano is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor with expertise in trauma-informed care. She received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Loyola University Chicago and her master’s in Forensic Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
Aaron Mallory joined Heartland Alliance in August 2018 as Clinical Manager for READI Chicago. In this role, he is responsible for the implementation and quality assurance of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), coordinating staff training and support in CBT and creating a therapeutic culture within READI Chicago.
Mr. Mallory has worked in this field for more than 10 years, working with African American males on diverse behavioral challenges. He provided direct service work at UCAN within their transitional living shelter for young adult males, and at HRDI as a child and adolescent therapist and as the clinical supervisor over the child and adolescent department.
Mr. Mallory received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a master’s in social work from the University of Chicago. He is a licensed clinical social worker under the State of Illinois regulatory board.
Soren Larsen-Ravenfeather joined Heartland Alliance in September 2017. In his current role as Director of Training, he is responsible for the overall learning and development culture within READI Chicago.
Mr. Larsen-Ravenfeather brings more than 10 years of experience designing and implementing a variety of social service programs, including street outreach and drop-in services, mentoring and after-school programming, and workforce development. Throughout his career, he has supported staff skill development, including serving as the primary nonviolence crisis intervention trainer for Heartland Human Care Services from 2014–2016. Most recently, he served as the Program Manager for READI Chicago.
Mr. Larsen-Ravenfeather holds a bachelor’s degree in communication science from the University of Wisconsin Madison and a master’s degree in social services administration from the University of Chicago.
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