MILWAUKEE — Speaking directly to those who have boots on the ground working to disrupt the cycle of violence that is plaguing Milwaukee neighborhoods.
TMJ4's Shannon Sims sat down with two men who know first hand the work that needs to be done from a grass roots effort to the leadership in the city and county government.
Ray Mendoza admits poor decisions in his youth led him down the wrong path.
"I know what it's like to get shot. I know what it's like to get beat up," Mendoza said. "I know all of that."
He served 17 years in a federal penitentiary. Now, years later, he says he is giving back to the city by turning his pain into purpose as a violence interrupter on the streets of Milwaukee.
"When I tell these guys, I don't even know you, but I love you, I'm not lying to them," Mendoza said. "I'm telling them the truth, because I see me. I see my homies that I grew up with and the ones that I buried. I see them out there."
Mendoza believes a rise in gun violence among young adults is due to the negative influences in their environment.
"With the invention of social media and the advancement of video games and all the gun violence in movies, that's all that is projected to the youth," he said. "That's the only outlet they have right now ."
Police say the violence that broke out downtown last week started with people settling disputes with guns. David Muhammad's work with the county's Department of Health and Human Services focuses on disrupting the cycle off gun violence that many young adults choose to use.
"I think one of the most important things is you have to address the individuals who are most prone to using gun violence as a solution," Muhammad said. "What is going on in their lives? I really stay with them to get them to choose different alternatives."
Meanwhile, Mendoza is determined like Muhammad to change the lives of those willing to make the change.
"If they don't love themselves, it's not gonna help them at all," Mendoza said.
Mendoza has a powerful message, and it makes you wonder what message would have changed his life before he ended up in prison. That is his mission for the youth now.