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Peoria part of statewide network of 'community healing' resource centers

House of Hope, 514 S. Shelley St., is a nonprofit serving South Peoria.
Hannah Alani
House of Hope, at 514 S. Shelley St., is a nonprofit serving South Peoria. It's also the future home of a Live Free Illinois "community healing" resource center.

A new statewide network of 13 “community healing" resource centers includes a location operating out of House of Hope in Peoria.

The network is overseen by Live Free Illinois, a faith-based gun violence prevention and justice reform group, with a focus on healing the trauma caused by gun violence in Black communities. The healing centers are formed by building partnerships with nonprofit organizations and Black churches across the state.

Executive director Ciera Bates-Chamberlain said the centers are a resource for communities to get therapy from locally-hired mental health professionals.

“We believe that every resident in a high-risk community is impacted by gun violence,” she said. “And so our goal is to ensure that we are actually addressing the trauma instead of consistently talking about the impact of trauma.”

Bates-Chamberlain said the model of partnering with an already active community organization is particularly important for the centers. It makes it easier to build trust and a cache with the community, as well as giving “culturally competent” mental health services.

“It does mean a lot when the person that I'm connecting to understands my culture, where I come from, why I may do the things that I do, why I may sing the songs that I sing,” Bates-Chamberlain said. “And so I believe that that helps to create a level of comfortability and again, relatability as we're moving toward receiving services, and it also breaks down like more of a you know, a paternalistic approach that can sometimes happen within therapy.”

Terry Burnside is the executive director of House of Hope. He said a few positions already are filled for the center at the Shelley Street location.

Burnside expects the operation to fill an underserved need for mental health resources in Peoria.

“There are many different organizations, many different groups doing great things,” he said. “But to this magnitude, this will literally be the first of its kind around the trauma and the healing resilience in the community itself.”

Burnside also is optimistic the community-partner approach and culturally competent service will help break down barriers for individuals who may be skeptical of mental healthcare or had bad experiences with trying to get help in the past.

“People get discouraged and not wanting to fill out the paperwork, and just fall by the wayside,” Burnside said. “But we’re kind of here to help walk, hold their hands and walk along with them. And just be supportive.”

The healing center network is funded by a grant from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, or ICJIA.

“Of course, we will be doing additional fundraising,” Bates-Chamberlain said. “But the initial development you see was placed by ICJIA.”

Other center locations include East St. Louis, Champaign, Rockford and Springfield.

Burnside said an opening event is planned for Sept. 9, 2023.

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Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.