City of Milwaukee, salons and barbershops are expanding anti-violence partnership

NOW: City of Milwaukee, salons and barbershops are expanding anti-violence partnership

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The city of Milwaukee is expanding a program that trains stylists and barbers to share anti-violence resources with clients.

The Style and Substance initiative is designed to cut down on violence.

Barbers, estheticians, and stylists are often plugged into the community thanks to lengthy relationships with clients. The city of Milwaukee wants to capitalize on those strengths by helping them share anti-violence resources.

Arnitta Holliman, the director of the city's Office of Violence Prevention, said, "I know I have poured out my life to a few stylists in the city."

She meant it as a joke, but one with a lot of truth behind it.

Mayor Cavalier Johnson said he's been going to his barber for more than 20 years. "You're putting a lot of faith, a lot of trust in them, right?"

So city leaders say it makes sense to equip stylists and barbers to discuss mental health, recognize trauma, and share resources with those who ask for them.

Assistant Police Chief Steve Johnson said, "It's all hands on deck. We will accept and welcome any assistance."

The initiative is run through the city’s Office of Violence Prevention. Organizers say those professionals are naturally plugged into their communities, but some issues may require a deeper skillset.

Holliman said, "Information around de-escalation tips but also additional resources if people are experiencing conflict and they need assistance."

Stylist LaToya Hurd has gone through the training, and said, "I keep my laminated list of resources next to my station."

And she's put what she learned into practice. She works primarily with young people, and discusses many issues with them connected to violence. Hurd said, "You have to find people other than your parents that you trust. And so oftentimes they come to me and I do their hair and they tell me all these things that their parents don't know."

She added the class "helped me to really put more focus on if they're serious or if it's something I need to hand off to someone beyond me. So I appreciate the class and I use my resources all the time."

Stylists say it’s only natural they capitalize on their relationships with their clients, and they have seen this program work.

Stylist Simmone Kilgore said, "I've seen it play out many times. That people seek help. They do the work it takes to heal. And that they benefit from us sharing those resources from the beginning."

She added, "I pride myself in making sure that people heal, that they're connected to resources, that they know hope and healing as possible. So I've seen it played out many, many times."

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