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This was broadcast Oct. 28 on a special episode of All Things Peoria, focused on the long trauma of gun violence in Peoria and those working to face it head-on.

With 'House of Hope,' Terry Burnside hopes to help Peoria heal from gun violence

house of hope exterior terry burnside2.jpg
Hannah Alani
Terry Burnside stands outside House of Hope, 514 S. Shelley St.

Terry Burnside leads South Peoria nonprofit House of Hope.

As Peoria's homicide rate climbs, Terry hopes to prevent future tragedies by mitigating interpersonal conflicts ... before a gun is put in someone's hand.

The following is a transcript of a WCBU piece that aired during All Things Peoria on Thursday, Oct. 28. Some parts of the transcript were edited for clarity.

Gun violence in Peoria has had a tremendous impact on Terry Burnside’s life.

“By the 26th of this month, my brother was murdered 32 years ago, to gun violence. His son was shot, maybe 11 years after he was. A guy robbed them, and to this day, it’s still an unsolved case. He’s an amputee, had to get his leg removed.

Dip deeper into WCBU's past coverage of violence in Peoria, including community resources and an interactive map tracking homicides.

“My youngest son was offered over a six-figure contract with the Canadian Football League before he got before he got shot. 10 days before he got shot. So that kind of shattered his dreams, ruined everything for him.

“A few months later, my daughter was shot. Sitting in a car with her friend. They just went grocery shopping on a rainy night. It was raining so bad when they pulled back up to the apartment complex, they sat in the car, try to let the weather slow down. And it didn't slow down. Eventually, a guy walked up to the car, knocked on the window. And they recognized him, said, ‘Hey, how you doing?’ My daughter was a passenger. Her friend was driving. My grandson was in the backseat, and the other young lady’s son was in the backseat. So the guy said, ‘Okay, I'm good.’ He walked away. He turned around, came back and just shout at the car. Boom, boom, boom. The girl, the driver took off into the middle of an intersection. When she did, they were T-boned. So my daughter got shot in the side. The accident, broke her neck and her pelvis. My grandson in the backseat broke his leg, and the other passenger broke his leg.”

Though violence has rocked Terry's life, he firmly believes retaliation is never the answer.

“One of the hardest things I've ever had to do was greet the guy who killed my brother when he was released from prison. … I say, ‘Well, we can't change it. So we just move forward and just keep it moving.’ I'm still hurt, still hurt as if it happened yesterday. But I wanted to do something different instead of just retaliating. Be the bigger person. My mom, my parents always told me, … ‘Be the bigger person.’ So I lived through those words, those expectations. They were tough. So to be able to greet the guy when he got out of prison, man. I knew him. We all grew up together. We went school together. We went to church together. And to see him … When he first saw me, he was like trembling. I shook his hand. Reached out, shook his hand, and hugged him. And we both just shed tears.

“I like told him, ‘We can't change the past. All we can do is move forward. You're going on with your life, We're going on with our lives. We can't change it. So why me do something stupid, you do something stupid. There may another life lost, or someone's going back to jail. It's not worth all that. Let’s be grown up, be mature, and get on with our lives.’ And that guy, he's, he's probably been home probably 10 or 12 years now himself. Yeah. And I see him in passing, say, ‘Hey, how you doing?’ Keep it moving.

“Are we cool? We'll never be cool. Are we cordial? Of course.”

Today Terry is 56 years old and leads House of Hope, a South Peoria nonprofit focused on trauma-informed care and youth mentorship as violence reduction strategies.

Terry's resume in Peoria is vast. He chaired Peoria's chapter of Communities Against Violence. He's led countless vigils and peace marches. This year he received the Humanitarian Award from the NAACP.

house of hope exterior terry burnside.jpg
Hannah Alani
Terry Burnside stands outside House of Hope, 514 S. Shelley St.

But he hasn't always been a community leader.

“I've been there, done that, got myself in trouble, been to jail. I've been in prison. A lot of people say well, ‘What made you get it together, Terry?’ Well, after having children, I knew that it was no longer about selfish Terry. Taking chances, going to jail, doing things, doing stupid stuff. And I sold drugs. I did crazy things like that. But I knew, and I share the same thing with my son, who's got a son. I say, ‘One thing I learned when I was getting in trouble, man. When it came to my children, I knew I couldn't raise you up on the other side of that fence. I gotta be on this side. Here with you. I'm gonna instill morals and values in you.’”

After returning home from jail Terry worked in the automotive and construction trades. He also watched the violence in South Peoria rise -- especially among young people.

In 2007, Terry led a group of mechanics in creating a nonprofit for car enthusiasts. The aim was to use race tracks and car shows to deter youth in the neighborhood from gangs, drugs and violence.

“So the cars were our hook to allow us to get into the ears and minds of the young guys, to develop rapport with them, and in turn, develop relationships. So once we get in with the good with the youth, we went to the parents, introduce ourselves to the parents, then we got involved with the school. We became mentors.”

Terry believes if shown another way, young people are capable of change.

“While my son was in the hospital we were able to locate his shooter, the guy who shot him. And he came in we talked. We're adults about this, he's young kid. He was so sad. He said, ‘I'm sorry. That wasn't meant for you.’ So I said to my son, ‘This is the kind of attitude you need to take home bro. I mean, you wasn’t the intended target. Thank God you’re still here.’ And then I shared a story about my brother. Retaliation. … ‘Vengeance is Mine,’ says the Lord. You gotta have some spiritual knowledge somewhere.”

This summer, Terry had the opportunity to purchase an old church building at the corner of Howett and Shelley streets.

That's where he moved House of Hope.

“I call it a diamond in the rough. It’s a diamond because, it's almost shiny, it has so much potential. But when I say rough, I'm talking about, it’s in the rough part of the neighborhood.”

House of Hope is a place for Peoria Public School students to do virtual learning and pursue workforce training. Trained counselors host support groups for survivors.

Neighbors can take cooking classes at House of Hope and shop a free food pantry.

House of Hope sanctuary room.png
Hannah Alani
House of Hope, 514 S. Shelley St., is a nonprofit serving South Peoria.

Using his relationships, Terry has been able to learn about interpersonal conflict among youth and de-escalate fights before things turn violent.

For Terry, nearly every homicide statistic in Peoria has a face and a name.

Not every day is a win. He knew the family of 19-year-old Martez Robertson. Terry mentored 17-year-old Jerry Snipes Junior.

“Relationships is the new currency. I know everybody and anybody in this city. When I was in PCAV, I always followed up with the individuals. The chief saw me at Jerry Snipes’ scene. Said, ‘How you find about it?’ Relationships. I said, ‘My your phone is going off, my phone is going off. People call me.’”

Mayor Rita Ali formed Safety Network, a group of community leaders and stakeholders. Nicknamed "S-Net," the group meets weekly. Terry is a member.

Terry says there are lots of people in Peoria working to reduce violence. He hopes these efforts can become more streamlined in the future.

“Here in Peoria there’s not a whole lot of consistency. We got great groups and a lot of great organizations, but we’ve got to break down the silos, and join hands.”

house of hope food pantry terry burnside.jpg
Hannah Alani
Terry Burnside stands inside the free food pantry of House of Hope, 514 S. Shelley St.

In an effort to increase community trust in the police, police chief Eric Echevarria held a summit last week for women impacted by gun violence.

Terry had a similar idea years ago.

“I like the chief’s intuition, I like his drive. I like his ambition. I like his push. So I said, ‘Chief, you're onto something. … But why reinvent the wheel? … On January 28, 2019, I had a ‘Stop the Violence’ peace rally in Martin Luther King Jr. Park. What I did, sir, I'm like you, out here in the community. I know the pulse of the community, the pulse of the city. So, I say, what can we do differently to tug at the heartstrings of the young man? This is 2019. I said, Mothers.’

“What I did, was I had a mother of some victims whose son was killed. I had mothers on the other side of the fence, mothers of children who did the shooting. There wasn’t a dry eye in the park.”

As Peoria leaders discuss the 2022 budget, Terry hopes to see increased funding for community-driven resources such as House of Hope.

At the end of the day, Terry hopes Peorians both within and outside the communities most impacted by gun violence put more faith in young people.

“Young people in the community, we always tell them, how ‘bad’ these children are. I give them this example. If I want to go to Bucey Bank, First National Bank, Commerce Bank … How can I expect for me to go down there and make a withdrawal if I don't have no account set up? More importantly, how can I go make a withdrawal, when I haven't made any deposits?

“How can we expect anything out of these children, when we haven’t poured in to them? So it’s impossible to have expectations when you haven’t invested in them. I'm not talking about monetary. I mean just invest in them.”

Find more information on House of Hope online.

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