14 Jul 2020

Metropolitan Peace Academy: Building a Community of Case Workers

Since 2018, the Metropolitan Peace Academy in Chicago has offered training for street outreach workers. So far, 11 ALSO outreach staff members have graduated from the Academy. This month marks the first time a case management cohort has completed the training.

In June, ALSO Resilience Advocate, Linnette Acosta, completed the case management training. ALSO outreach workers, Nelson Torres and Cierra McGee, also completed training from the Peace Academy in June. 

On June 17, ALSO Resilience Manager, Linnette Acosta (left), and outreach workers, Nelson Torres and Cierra McGee, participated in a celebration to mark their graduation from the Metropolitan Peace Academy. The Peace Academy is a training ground committed to professionalizing the roles associated with the street outreach community.

Focus on Case Management

ALSO Resilience Advocate Linnette Acosta.

Case managers work with participants to utilize community resources, which can include assisting with employment searches, enrolling in continued education, or accessing mental and physical health care. The training provided participants with an opportunity to be part of a growing and established group of case managers around the city who work with the street outreach community to serve vulnerable communities. “The training does a great job of building a community among case managers,” says Acosta. “In general, we all speak with each other and share resources and best practices. We come from different communities, but we are doing the same work.”

This spring, topics have included self-care and how to provide services during Covid-19. When Covid-19 started, the cohort started meeting twice a week. The training reinforces the connection between outreach workers and case managers at ALSO and other organizations. 

Red Flag Relationships

In May, ALSO Resilience Manager, Tara Campbell, and Outreach Program Manager, Tony Raggs, presented a training to the cohort on Red Flag Relationships which are high-risk relationships that have the potential for a linkage to community violence. The Red Flag Relationships training is a regular component of the Peace Academy curriculum.

The Metropolitan Peace Academy’s trainings for case managers and outreach workers include a session on “Red Flag Relationships” that was developed and is presented by ALSO.

At one point, the presentation shared that “Rates of violence in intimate relationships are found to be highest in the most-disadvantaged communities” and that “Black women in the US have been found to be two to four times more likely than White women to be killed by an intimate partner.”

Participants reflected on their own experiences working with clients who have been in red flag relationships. “We found that case managers at groups around the city have some of the same concerns that ALSO is facing,” says Acosta. “How can we provide services for individuals that might be in toxic relationships? What if participants are hard to engage with or contact? In some cases, victims are social distancing and quarantining at home with possible abusers.”

During Covid-19, many reports around the city, country, and world have found that incidents of domestic violence are up at this time. “Movement restrictions aimed to stop the spread of the coronavirus may be making violence in homes more frequent, more severe and more dangerous,” according to a New York Times story that was cited in the training.

“We all try to speak with program participants and let them know that they can contact us in a safe way,” Acosta says.

During the presentation, Campbell added a quote from British author Sophie Kinsella: “There’s no such thing as ruining your life. Life’s a pretty resilient thing, it turns out.”

Meanwhile, Acosta shares that this experience has confirmed what she has learned at ALSO. “Compassion, patience, and communication have to be at the forefront – with or without Covid. That helps frame the work and move it forward.”

The Metropolitan Peace Academy is a training ground committed to professionalizing the roles associated with the street outreach community. It is part of Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P), a framework that provides a comprehensive, long-term approach to reducing violence