A coalition of counselors and black community leaders in Annapolis has begun a program to help children in low-income housing cope with the increasing violence of today's society.
Annapolis Alderman Carl O. Snowden called a news conference yesterday to announce the volunteer effort, dubbed "Operation Empathy."
"I will never forget the expression of some of the teen-agers in the Bywater community when a young man was murdered there," said Mr. Snowden, referring to the killing of Darrell Downs in 1990.
"These youngsters who observed the dead body of their friend needed professional counseling, yet none was provided. I felt then, as I do now, the city should have . . . a group of professionals, who on a temporary basis can provide short-term counseling."
Charlotte King, the former executive director of the state Department of Human Resources' Social Services Administration, will coordinate the grief counseling program.
Ms. King said she resigned her post recently to become more active in her hometown of Annapolis.
"We will meet on a short-term basis with children who are in grief," she said.
"If they've been a witness to violence, or have lost a friend or family member, they will be experiencing a lot of pain and confusion about what is happening."
Seven social workers and counselors have volunteered to work in teams to provide crisis counseling when there is a shooting, murder or other violence in one of the city's 10 public housing communities.
Harold Greene, executive director of the Annapolis Housing Authority, said he welcomed the effort. Many children could have used counseling after an 8-year-old boy suffered severe burns from crawling inside an electrical transformer at the Robinwood project, he said.
The authority put tamper-resistant locks on all the transformers to prevent another accident.
"For young people in particular, it [violence] can have a traumatic effect," Mr. Greene said.
Dallas Evans, head of the city's Community Action Agency, and Assistant Police Chief Harold Robbins also voiced their support.
Mr. Snowden, a Democrat who represents the city's 5th Ward, promised the program would be "the first of a series of recommendations.
"It is time to move from protest to progress," he said. He briefly touched on developing a partnership with the private sector to provide day care for city employees and the need to expand the city's tax base.