Since 1997, nearly 60,000 kids in Chicago's most violence-ridden neighborhoods have heard bleak stories of daily life told by men paralyzed by gunshots and beatings, says the Chicago Sun-Times. The “In My Shoes” program from Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital sent victims of violence with the most severe injuries into classrooms, juvenile detention centers and parole offices to talk about life after a violent, often gun-related crime.
Now, when Chicago's murder rate earns the city unwanted international attention, the federal money that In My Shoes relied on is gone and the program is barely operational. It has been hailed as an effective, low-cost attempt to prevent violence instead of dealing with the expensive after-effects, such as health care for gunshot injuries or incarceration. “It would be different if Cornel West or Jesse Jackson came in and said, 'Boys, be good,' ” said Demetrius Harris, 32, who uses a wheelchair because he was shot in the spine and paralyzed from the waist down during a gang initiation in 2003. “But they see someone like me, from the South Side of Chicago, and they say this can happen to me. That really registers.” “They have been an amazing partner of ours since the inception of Project Safe Neighborhoods,” said Kim Nerheim, the law-enforcement coordinator for Project Safe Neighborhoods, a gun-violence prevention effort through the U.S. attorney's office of Northern Illinois and a number of other federal and local agencies, including the Chicago Police Department. “Funding from Congress is nonexistent,” for Project Safe Neighborhoods, she said.