This year, AdHoc Group Against Crime is striving to address violence and trauma at the individual, community, and historical levels. The group currently provides a variety of services to victims of violence in the Kansas City area, but President Damon Daniel believes they’ve only scratched the surface of the impact they could have.
A major component of AdHoc’s goals for the new year is an upcoming capital campaign to build a first-of-its-kind Center for Healing & Justice. The center would also house the group’s current services and be a safe space for community members impacted by violence and trauma.
“The community that we serve and that we’ve been a part of for 45 years has seen a lot of plans come and go and has heard a lot of broken promises,” Daniel said. “AdHoc, in our 45 years, has never really had a permanent office location. The investment that we’re looking to make in this community, and that we’re hoping others will join us in making, is really to say, ‘We’re here.’”
Who is AdHoc Group Against Crime?
For 45 years, AdHoc has been Kansas City’s primary provider of supportive services for those impacted by violence and homicide. According to Daniel, the group has continuously evolved with the times since the 1970s, from addressing the crack epidemic and war on drugs to tackling mass incarceration and the AIDS epidemic. Throughout their history, they have also continued to develop a unique relationship with law enforcement and the criminal justice system to navigate the inequalities Black individuals face and find a path to healing and justice despite these hurdles.
AdHoc founder Alvin Brooks was a detective and served on the police board of commissioners, granting him access and relationships that Daniel simply doesn’t have. As a result, Daniel has been dedicated to developing organic relationships with law enforcement and providing insight as to what equity looks like within the criminal justice system. “Because of that credibility we’ve been able to really maneuver and navigate through those systems and have become a really great resource,” he said.
Today, the group looks at violence as a public health model, identifying how mental health and trauma are associated with violence and the impact this has on individuals and communities alike. AdHoc provides many victim services that complement the work law enforcement does to help victims of violence. These services include minor home repairs (such as patching bullet holes or replacing windows) and emergency relocation out of harm’s way, among others.
“We always say that we are saving lives in real-time and that is no stretch of the imagination,” Daniel said. If someone’s home has been shot at, or they have been involved in, or a target of, violence, AdHoc is able to move them to a safe place. This not only protects them from further acts but also removes them from a place that can become triggering because of the trauma experienced.
This process also involves case management to ensure victims are stable moving forward, including securing permanent housing, access to employment opportunities, and counseling. “The organization, I think, has taken a more holistic approach when it comes to violence prevention and violence intervention as well as victim services,” Daniel said.
A New Approach to Helping Communities Heal
Prior to AdHoc, Daniel was in seminary, led there by two issues weighing heavily on his heart: violence and mass incarceration. When Daniel answered the call, he hoped to better understand what that call really meant for him and what his spiritual walk would be.
“When the opportunity to come to AdHoc came up, I looked at it as, hey, here’s my ministry,” he said. “This is what God is calling me to do at this moment in time.” The work done through AdHoc takes a heavy emotional toll, especially considering the fact Black men continue to die almost daily from both community and police-related violence. However, Daniel still finds the motivation and focus to continue by remembering that real change doesn’t occur overnight.
“I pray that I can be part of a wave of change that inspires new generations to carry that torch and lead us toward systemic change,” he said. “When we’re thinking about strategies or methods for addressing violence, police is not the answer. We can’t arrest our way out of that – that sounds cliche but that’s a fact and any good police officer will tell you that.”
When people call 911 in an emergency, it is after something has already occurred. According to Daniel, 85% of the people they serve are no strangers to violence, and sometimes this violence is generational. Less than 50% of homicides are solved in the current year, which has remained consistent for years, compounding trauma in communities affected by violence.
“You have so many people – thousands of people in our city, in our metro – that have not had closure, that may know who did it but nothing’s being done about it,” Daniel said. “They’re hurting, they’re traumatized, they’ve given up, there’s no sense of justice for them, and they’re living in conditions where they’re still hearing gunshots, sirens, and that level of trauma is permeating throughout.”
Daniel believes AdHoc has done a decent job addressing violence and trauma on an individual level through counseling services which have been shown to help reduce retaliation, help victims address and understand anger, and improve victims’ communication skills. According to Daniel, 100% of the people who have undergone counseling through their services reported that they would not have sought out counseling if it had not been for AdHoc introducing them.
The fact that services are free and accessible, and that AdHoc has counselors and staff that look like the population they serve (and have their own lived experiences with violence and trauma) makes their work even more impactful. Counselors culturally understand what victims are going through and can communicate about that effectively.
While AdHoc has certainly made an impact on the individual level, Daniel is determined to recreate this success on the community and historical levels. As he sees it, the community-wide problem is this: thousands of people have experienced violence and trauma, have had no justice, are still looking over their shoulders in fear, and are still angry.
This is all compounded by other stressors in life, such as lack of affordable health care, housing, food deserts, lack of employment opportunities or equitable benefits, and more. Because the population most affected by these factors in Kansas City is Black, racism becomes an additional stressor as this is a traumatic event that occurs repeatedly over a lifetime and throughout multiple generations.
“All these things add to the trauma that people are experiencing,” Daniel said. “When you mix that all together with gunshots and sirens and dead bodies on the street, it makes for a recipe for what we’re seeing today.”
Center for Healing & Justice
Pursuing healing and justice for an entire community such as Kansas City is a monumental task. Healing is not linear, doesn’t look the same for everyone, and not everyone can begin the healing process without first receiving some form of justice or vice versa. The journey AdHoc is embarking on in 2023 includes looking at how they define real healing and real justice and what that looks and feels like.
As part of this journey, AdHoc is also considering what policies are needed to invoke systemic change to tackle the historical level of communities long plagued by violence and trauma. Previous racial institutional policies and redlining in Kansas City have created pockets of poverty which then perpetuate many of the stressors that play a role in preventing communities from healing and living well.
What that looks like for AdHoc moving forward is building more partnerships and collaborating with more thought partners, practitioners who work in addressing trauma, law enforcement agencies, clients, and families alike to have conversations about what healing and justice look like on the individual, community, and historical levels.
“When we’re having these conversations, we need those folks in the room,” Daniel said. “I always look at, how do I bring people who are closest to the pain with me and give them an opportunity to share their stories, their insight, and their experiences to those who have the power to make change?”
The Center for Healing & Justice, an upcoming investment AdHoc is making in the community, will serve as a permanent location for the group to continue providing their current victim services, as well as make space for community conversations. Daniel’s goal is to hold a series of smaller conversations with clients and community members to gain insight into what people are looking for in terms of healing and justice and where there is work to be done, especially at the higher levels.
Then, he aims to expand these conversations to conferences that provide the tools necessary to address trauma, providing education and training to other organizations and individuals, and empowering them to help heal their own communities.
Above all else, the center will be a unique safe space for the community. “This is going to be a permanent place for those who are hurting and in need and disenfranchised,” he said. “This will be a place that will serve as a beacon of hope and a true place where youth and adults and families alike can come and get the assistance they need. That’s what we’re striving for and what we’re looking to build there.”
Saving Lives in Real Time
Though the work of AdHoc can be dispiriting, Daniel and the rest of the AdHoc team find the strength to keep going because of the impact their work has on people’s lives. “There are moments and glimpses that I get that suggest that we are on the right track in terms of the directions that I’m steering the ship,” he said. “There are times when I am talking with someone who says the simplest thing, like a thank you. We don’t look for thank you’s, but when we get them, it’s nice.”
“When you’re meeting people during their darkest, lowest, most challenging times, you’re not looking for a thank you, you’re just looking to hold that person up and carry them as they’re trying to pull the pieces of their life together,” Daniel continued. “I think that there’s a bit of affirmation when that person, that you met at a crime scene, walks through your door a month later with a smile on their face. To see them at least smiling, or to at least know that they’re back to work or that their daily function has increased – those are small victories, but they’re so impactful at the same time. Those are the things that are not all that measurable, but those are the things that sustain us.”
Get connected to free victim services through AdHoc:
- 24-Hour Community Hotline (Missouri): 816.753.1111
- 24-Hour Community Hotline (Kansas): 913.308.7555
- 24-Hour Youth Hotline: 816.531.COOL (2665)
Learn more about AdHoc and stay up to date on upcoming projects, including the Center for Healing & Justice: https://adhocgroupkc.org/