Abstract: The Experiences of African-Americans in High-Violence Communities with Street Outreach Intervention and Resilience Building (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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The Experiences of African-Americans in High-Violence Communities with Street Outreach Intervention and Resilience Building

Friday, January 13, 2023
Valley of the Sun A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Michelle-Ann Rhoden- Neita, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, IL
Joseph Strickland, PhD, Visiting Research Associate, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago
Patrick Daniels, MSW, Student, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago
Background and Purpose: Economic deprivation, disinvestment in social programs, and discriminatory policing disproportionately affecting African-American (AA) communities have been tools of structural violence shown to perpetuate poor health outcomes. Previous studies showed that street outreach, a community-based public health intervention, can improve the health outcomes of residents in high-violence communities affected by structural violence. Yet, no known study has examined the experiences of street outreach intervention and resilience building among workers and program participants. Most street outreach studies focus on conflict mediation to reduce violent incidents but equally important is exploring protective factors like resilience to guard against the lasting psychological effects of violence. Risk and resilience model for community violence highlights a dual focus: reducing the risk factors and building protective factors. For this study, we explored the mechanisms used by AAs to build the capacity to cope with stress and develop a sense of hopefulness to achieve personal goals while living in high-crime, high-violent communities. We utilized a phenomenological case study approach to explore the experiences with street outreach services and resilience-building in two high-crime Southside communities located in Chicago. This is part of a larger study. We will focus on the qualitative results for this paper.

Methods: We conducted focus groups (four groups with five participants from each of the two communities) and in-depth interviews (five street outreach workers from each community). Street outreach workers live and work in the same community as the program participants. We included AAs who are at risk of violence as a victim and/or perpetrator. We used flyers to recruit participants. We conducted semi-structured interviews eliciting participants’ experiences living in a high-violence community, understanding and utilization of services provided by the street outreach program, and understanding of resilience and barriers to coping related to street outreach program. Interviews recordings were transcribed verbatim and then we applied Braun and Clarke’s six-phase process for thematic content analysis approach to identify main themes. We conducted coding and analyses using Atlas.ti 8.0.

Results: Data analysis revealed the importance of street outreach in building resilience, sense of hope, and coping skills among workers and participants living in the two high-violence communities in Chicago. Most program participants described lack of resources as a barrier to coping with stress and the social support received from workers as key in developing hope and resilience.

Conclusions and Implications: Findings highlight the importance of street outreach among AAs living in high-violence communities in building the capacity to cope with hardships. Knowledge gained from this proposed research has the potential to inform policies and practices to enhance street community outreach services with the aim of reducing poor mental health outcomes for AA at risk of violence.