CINCINNATI — “We’re doing this to save the lives of our young people,” Sheila Rosenthal said. “This is a crisis. And it’s a crisis that isn’t going away.”
Rosenthal was talking about the gun violence that killed 11 teens in Cincinnati last year. Spurred to action, Rosenthal and others came together to create a safe house in Price Hill to give young people a place to go instead of the streets.
Two of the shootings that killed teens last year happened in Price Hill. Of more than 300 shootings in Cincinnati in 2019, 30% of the victims were teens.
“This is an alternative to just being on the streets,” said Aaron Pullins. “This is an alternative than selling drugs. This is an alternative to gun violence. So we created an alternative with a safe house.”
Rosenthal, a community activist in Price Hill, and Pullins, founder of Men Involved, got together with nonprofits like Mentoring Young Men and community volunteers to start the safe house. Price Hill Will donated a building on Warsaw Avenue.
Once the rehab work began, local teens were right in the thick of it, learning new skills and the feeling of being part of the community.
“When you put people to work in their community, they feel as if ‘now I am a part of that community,’” said Kenneth Stevens of Mentoring Young Men. “So by letting these young men work in the community, they now can come in and learn different trades instead of standing in front of the building doing other things.
“Once you bring a kid into a safe center community, the safe center actually puts the kid in a safer mental state,” said Stevens. “They think differently. They think better, more positive thoughts and more positive outcomes.”
David Brewster, 19, of Price Hill, said his job is “taking down dry wall, breaking things down, cleaning up.” He immediately felt the positive effects.
“It touches me a lot … It makes me stay away from things that I shouldn’t stay around,” Brewster said.
Once complete, the safe house will be open during evenings, helping fill the time after the rec center closes. Volunteers will supervise, offering services, structure and ultimately a “safe” space for teens and families.
The goal is to have it open by March.
Rosenthal has set up a GoFundMe page for donations toward rehabbing and operating the safe house.