By Ric Estrada
Guest Columnist
Chicago, IL, USA

Violence in Chicago has gripped the city, taking an enormous toll on its communities and the broader society. To help reduce that violence and bring peace, Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P) was launched. 
Ric Estrada

Organized by Metropolitan Family Services, CP4P is a cross-agency effort, coordinated by Metropolitan Family Services, that brings together eight community-based organizations to deliver a comprehensive community outreach and engagement model with the goal of reducing gun violence in nine of Chicago’s highest-risk communities. CP4P’s work is rooted in nonviolence, trauma-informed care, hyper-local collaboration and restorative justice practices.

At the heart of CP4P is the street outreach worker. Give me 10 minutes of your time to tell you about the transformed life of one such individual, LeVon Stone, Sr.

Within 30 days of being shot and paralyzed from the waist down, 18-year-old LeVon Stone Sr. went right back to the very spot where he was shot, to keep “living the street life to its fullest capacity” in Chicago’s Roseland community.

“When you’re a young person, you tend to do what you know, or what you think you know,” LeVon says. He adds, “I’ve lived the life of the ‘high-risk’ individual – I’ve been shot, carried a gun, interacted with police. I’ve done all that.”

LeVon Stone, Sr.
But something changed. Specifically, LeVon’s mindset shifted over time, sparked by meeting Xavier Williams, who introduced LeVon to formal street outreach. Prior to meeting Xavier, LeVon's involvement in violence prevention had been limited to informal efforts to quell outbreaks of violence among individuals and groups.

Xavier was one of Chicago’s first street outreach workers, enlisted for the role after having spent 20 years in prison. He was part of the team at CeaseFire, known today as Cure Violence, which would become a leading street outreach organization recognized locally and nationally. LeVon was intrigued by the idea of working to prevent and intervene in violent situations, so he decided to volunteer with CeaseFire.

Little did he know at the time, LeVon had found his niche.

After volunteering for three years, he was hired full-time at the agency as a street outreach worker in 2006. Things took off. LeVon was soon promoted to hospital responder – specialists who manage relations among those just shot and sent to trauma hospitals, their family members, and the hospital. He later became hospital case manager, then moved up to handling all hospital relations at that site. Later, he was promoted again to direct all of the agency’s Illinois hospital programs. He ended his time with the organization as program director for all of its Chicago and Illinois operations.

During those years, LeVon also earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree in Inner
City Studies from Northeastern Illinois University, completing his master’s in 2015.
“Getting my education was part of what helped me make the transition,” LeVon says.

This year LeVon was named CEO of Acclivus, a Chicago community organization that uses public health methodologies and intentional social networks to prevent violence and improve community health. His insertion into the circle of leaders focused on violence prevention is significant, because he and his leadership team are examples of transformation with indigenous ties to communities where violence is most prevalent. Street outreach remains priority, and Acclivus is now leading a hospital responder program, work that LeVon describes as “outreach on steroids.”

With determination and the support of mentors, LeVon has successfully changed his life, but it was not a quick process. “I was once part of the problem, now I’m part of the solution,” he says. “When we talk about making transition in life, I’ve made that transition. But I can tell you firsthand that it doesn’t happen overnight. I didn’t make the full transition until I was 30,” LeVon says, now in his 40s.

When it comes to CP4P, Chicago’s anti-violence collaboration involving eight of the city’s leading street outreach organizations, LeVon has served on the executive committee since the program launched. He says, “CP4P is unique in that philanthropists in the Chicago area were concerned about stopping violence, and they chose Metropolitan Family Services to be the lead organization to organize the community partners. I’m glad the philanthropic world knew that this was such a problem, and that they got behind this, and wanted to fund it.”

He adds, “CP4P is a situation where Chicago people are being used to solve what’s going on in Chicago – these are experts who have done the work.”

LeVon also speaks highly of the Metropolitan Peace Academy, established by CP4P to professionalize the street outreach field. “My experience with CP4P has been a blessing, especially the Metropolitan Peace Academy. The Peace Academy implemented different ideologies from different organizations and married them. I think the Peace Academy could outlive violence prevention in the Chicago area.” His Acclivus Field Directors both graduated with the first class of Peace Academy enrollees.

In addition to the Peace Academy, LeVon also works directly with CP4P’s organizer, Metropolitan Family Services, as Metropolitan serves as Acclivus’ fiscal agent. That allows LeVon to offer his team economies of scale for benefits in the first fledgling year of program operations.

Looking ahead, LeVon’s goals include helping to change both the outcomes of and outlook on those who have left an unhealthy lifestyle and are committed to self-improvement. “I want to get rid of the stigma, so people are not judged for what they did as a teen,” he says. “It’s like double jeopardy. I’m now 45, I’ve paid the price for my mistakes, but I’m still haunted by what happened in the past.”

For street outreach, his biggest concern is the need for ongoing financial support to sustain and secure success, as would any fundamental public health need such as clean water and traffic lights. “Street outreach needs to be a line item in all budgets, just like transportation is. Chicago’s been known for violence since Al Capone’s time. To change that perception and our reality, we need to figure out how to make funding for street outreach work sustainable.”

CP4P Street Outreach

With the leadership of street outreach experts like LeVon Stone, CP4P is helping to bring peace to Chicago. Success is happening, but lasting change will take time. Sustained support from the philanthropic community, government and the community is required to achieve lasting success.



Ric Estrada is the President and CEO of Metropolitan Family Services that is dedicated to providing and mobilizing services needed to strengthen families and communities in Chicago.

All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.