Cure the Streets Spotlight: Lorenzo Sanders
Lorenzo is a violence interrupter for Cure the Streets in Ward 7’s Marshall Heights and Benning Heights neighborhoods. He’s a father of three children, but when you see him walking the streets in the community, you quickly realize that he’s a father figure to many.
“Cure the Streets, to me, is family,” he says.
When Lorenzo takes his kids to the playground, he invites other kids and their families to go with him (though he’s been taking extra precautions during the pandemic). If he sees teens hanging out on the sidewalk, he’ll sit with them and play cards – he’s always looking for ways to engage young people in the community.
This is part of the reason why Lorenzo refers to Cure the Streets as “family,” because he plays an active and supportive role in people’s lives every day much like a family member would.
He also uses those daily interactions with young people as an opportunity to encourage them. “Some of the guys have never left Southeast. They haven’t even been downtown to see the monuments. Some of these kids don’t even know about the African American History museum.” So when Lorenzo is with them, he encourages them to go to school, to make a plan, and to get outside.
Lorenzo became a violence interrupter in his neighborhood after he was incarcerated for 24 months. He explained that there was a lot of time for reflection in jail, “When you’re in jail, people give you all kinds of advice – but that’s because, in jail, all you’ve got is time.” He says he uses what he learned from his past to try to prevent others from making similar mistakes, “I don’t want my kids doing what I’ve done, but I showed them where I came from.” In addition to building relationships to help prevent violence, Cure the Streets staff also interrupt violence before it spreads. Lorenzo described a situation that happened recently where he and a team member walked by a community member and a security guard arguing. They knew the conflict could turn violent when they overheard someone suggest physically hurting the security guard. That’s when Lorenzo and his Cure the Streets teammate intervened. Lorenzo explained that in his neighborhood, even a conflict that starts small can quickly grow to involve multiple people “We’re in a target area…and people could be carrying guns…it could escalate quickly.” The Cure the Streets team was able to de-escalate the confrontation before anyone was hurt. “We prevented a situation from reaching the [news]paper that day,” he says.
When Lorenzo re-entered the community after being incarcerated, he started feeding people experiencing homelessness throughout the District. That’s when he was approached by Cure the Streets staff who invited him to apply to be a violence interrupter in the Marshall Heights and Benning Heights neighborhoods where he grew up. He says it’s because of the passionate staff that he met during his interview that he realized he would be joining a big family. “We can’t do everything, but we damn sure try,” he says.
OAG’s Cure the Streets uses a data-driven, public-health approach to treat violence as a disease that can be interrupted, treated, and stopped from spreading. CTS is working in six sites with some of the highest rates of gun violence in Wards 5, 7 and 8.