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Chris BynerChris Byner
Director, Streetworker Program
Boston Community Centers

 It hasn't always been a smooth relationship, but it's always been one of mutual respect and admiration and I think it really came to a head when people decided to leave their egos at the door, so to speak, and -- again, going back to the time when the City was really inundated with this big youth violence wave, and these gangs were taking over the city, and homicides, going to one funeral after another of young people. I think each entity looked at it and said, "Look, we're doing the best work we can do", because I think everyone really believed that. And rightfully so, in terms of what they needed to do, they were doing the best work they could possibly do. But I think people finally realized that it was necessary for people to be on the same page and really be able to co-exist together.

 The police, they have their own intelligence on the street so they don't need us to go out there to tell them who's doing what, because they know. But the one thing they will do is say, "You know, you guys may know a little bit more about this kid than we do. You guys are around him on a daily basis. Tell us a little bit about him. He doesn't seem like a bad kid. How could we avoid putting this kid in jail?"

 It's also good to have someone who is also in the community who understands, or who knows the community, who knows the fabric of the community, who understands what these kids are about, who knows what their home scenarios are like, who also knows whether this kid is really trying to take the steps to become a productive citizen, or is he trying to BS someone.

 I think it's really making people feel vested in it. I think aside from asking people to leave their egos at the door, it's getting people to have a sense of responsibility. It's just saying, "Look, you bring something to the table". It's getting people to understand that everything they do is important to getting to the ultimate goal -- to make the city safe. That everything each entity does is just as important as the other group or other agency. And I think that is, aside from the ego thing, that is a real key thing.

 The first thing is establishing a relationship and then maintaining the relationship. You never know when they're really going to gravitate toward you. But, at some point, they say something that you told them over and over that stuck in their head, and they say, "You know, I need Chris. Let me ask Chris if he can help me with this." And usually that's you're in. You're going to say, "What is it you need?" That's when they're going to open up to you and that's when you're going to start trying to connect them to the various resources and needs that he/she may need.

 I think the number one mission is to prevent violence. Prevent violence and to intervene where violence is taking place. But to take that a step further, the whole idea with Streetworkers is to alter the negative way of thinking to something positive. So it's to channel some of that negative energy towards a positive outlet. And that's the ultimate goal. It's not to make a kid put down the gun tomorrow or stop selling drugs tomorrow. But the goal is to get them to become productive citizens tomorrow.

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