The Solution

Guns Down, Life Up (GDLU) partners with public health professionals and community-based organizations to prevent and interrupt the cycle of violence that robs youth of their full potential.

GDLU is NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln' (Bronx, NY) response to inner city gun violence. The approach has the following distinct components: (1) prevention: engaging youth early in long-term mentorship and developmental activities to divert them from involvement with violent peer groups and behaviors; (2) community mobilization: engaging with concerned organizations and neighborhood residents to build community strategies to reduce neighborhood violence.

GDLU’s goal is to reduce violent injuries to young people, ages 10-18, so that they never end up as trauma patients in hospital facilities. By extension, the objectives are to:

  1. Increase young people’s engagement in positive, adult-supervised activities
  2. Improve participants’ physical and mental health
  3. Improve participants’ academic performance, including grade advancement and high achievement
  4. Reduce likelihood of justice system involvement
  5. Reduce idle time and risk behaviors
  6. Develop violence reduction strategies with community members


GDLU prevents violence by offering after school and summer hospital-based youth development programs, underpinned by mentoring and scholastic support. GDLU’s target population is at risk youth ages 10-18. The purpose of the hospital-based youth development programs is to involve young people in positive activities before they become involved with violence, minimizing the familial, societal, and economic burdens associated with violence.

GDLU programs are based at NYC Health + Hospitals’ facilities, which are uniquely suited for this work because they are located in neighborhoods with high rates of violence. The hospitals also provide a 24-hour safe environment and serve the most vulnerable New Yorkers. Youth violence peaks on school days between the hours of 3:00-7:00 p.m.[1], so GDLU programs engage youth in positive activities during this out of school time. Activities range from developmental workshops to recreational sports and remove young people from high risk social networks and environments.

GDLU’s positive youth development programs emphasize ongoing, deep, and consistent engagement with youth and teens that include positive activities and relationships with committed adult mentors. Young people are much less likely to be involved in violence if they have caring adult relationships; friendships with motivated peers; a commitment to school; and involvement in positive social activities[2]. GDLU’s youth development programs create the opportunity for these relationships to develop by bringing in strong mentors who help program participants to improve their self-image, motivate them to work hard in school, and encourage them to be involved in pro-social activities, thus decreasing the likelihood that they will be involved in  violence[3],[4],[5].

Community Mobilization

GDLU sites assemble coalitions of community stakeholders, which are called Circles of Safety. These coalitions convene monthly to discuss and exchange information on local public safety needs and accomplishments, as well as develop community-informed support strategies.

Circle of Safety partners share resources, support one another, refer mentors and potential program participants, assist with each other’s outreach, and attend each other’s events. Meetings may include discussion of relevant community topics, such as finding guns in public places or how to speak to your children about violence.

The Circle of Safety should reflect the interests of the local community and may include representatives from hospital departments (Emergency, Social Work, Pediatrics, Hospital Police, Public Affairs), representatives from NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the local District Attorney's office, the local New York Police Department precinct, local schools, therapeutic mental health service providers, politicians, and any other community members or organizations that are interested in this work. The intent is to create a broad net of stakeholders who will work together to make the community safer for everyone.

Program Activities:

Plan and run the prevention component of programming including, but not limited to:

  1. Planning and implementing life skills workshops, recreational activities, and meaningful outings during after-school hours, on weekends, and during school breaks.
  2. Embed mentorship into the program by engaging a cohort of mentors to participate regularly.
  3. Recruit and retain youth participants.
  4. Outreach to the local community to raise awareness and help recruitment.
  5. Liaise with local Cure Violence program, particularly if they have a Hospital Responder Arm.
  6. Collect data regularly, as prescribed by Guns Down, Life Up  

Plan and run the community mobilization component of programming including, but not limited to:

  1. Identify and engage members of the Circle of Safety.
  2. Planning the agenda for, hold, and run monthly Circle of Safety meetings.
  3. Facilitate any follow-up work or projects coming out of the Circle of Safety meetings.
GDLU also collaborates with violence prevention specialists, called credible messengers, so they can enter NYC Health + Hospitals emergency departments after violent incidents and help stop retaliation and ongoing violence & Injury.

[2] Office of the Surgeon General (US); National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (US); National Institute of Mental Health (US); Center for Mental Health Services (US). "Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General." Chapter 4 -- Risk Factors for Youth Violence. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2001. Web. 2015.
[3] Tierney, Joseph P., Jean Baldwin Grossman, and Nancy L. Resch. Making a Difference: An Impact Study of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Publication. N.p.: n.p., 1998. Print.
[4] Eby, Lillian T., Tammy D. Allen, Sarah C. Evans, Thomas Ng, and David L. Dubois. "Does Mentoring Matter? A Multidisciplinary Meta-analysis Comparing Mentored and Non-mentored Individuals." Journal of Vocational Behavior 72.2 (2008): 254-67. Web.
[5] DuBois, David L., and Michael J. Karcher. Handbook of Youth Mentoring. 1st ed. N.p.: SAGE Publications, 2005. Print.

NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln GDLU

James Dobbins III
NYC Health + Hospital -Violence Intervention & Prevention (H-VIP)Community Initiatives Director
NYC Health + Hospital /Lincoln,
Guns Down, Life Up Executive Director

Guns Down, Life Up is expanding across New York City.

In Brooklyn, GDLU’s Kings Against Violence Initiative (KAVI) works with young men and women at-risk for violent activity to support them after an incidence of violence and to engage them in alternatives to retaliation.

  • KAVI’s Prevention Program works with students in schools and provides them with weekly workshops and mentorship activities, including identity exploration, conflict resolution, peer mediation and life skills development.
  • Its Interrupter Program follows the Cure Violence model and employs community members – who often have prior experience with violence – to support youth after an incidence of violence. These hospital responders meet youth where they are, provide them with support and advice, and help guide them away from a cycle of retribution. 

Dr. Robert Gore Executive Director, Kings Against Violence Initiative (KAVI)

HHIPP's Six Winners program offers young men the opportunity to take part in healthy and engaging activities such as cycling. To date, riders have completed more than 20 miles around New York City.