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Grassroots-led effort seeks to improve safety for Norfolk children walking home from bus stop

NORFOLK, Va. — A pilot program in the St. Paul's neighborhood looks to improve safety for school-aged children on their walk home from the bus stop.

The new initiative is called "Take Back the Bus Stop." Organizers with the nonprofit organization New Virginia Majority are rallying together volunteers and locals in the St. Paul's quadrant.

"What we kept hearing from parents is that the shooting was getting really bad and it was getting the worst as students were getting off of the bus. And so we knew something had to be done about it," said Monét Johnson, a lead housing justice organizer with New Virginia Majority.

For the last several weeks, volunteers have stationed at multiple bus stops after dismissal time in Calvert Square.

"We know that shooting is very frequent in this neighborhood, but we've also noticed that when we have our community events, it stops for a little bit because the residents know we are out here trying to get some sort of help for them," Johnson added. 

The group wants to establish a form of deterrence, hand out snack bags and provide students walking home a layer of safety.

"Them being present at the bus stop gives me some kind of peace of security," said parent Sasha Simmons, who moved from Young Terrace to Calvert Square just a couple of months ago. The communities, she said, are grappling with a rise in gun violence.

Simmons told 13News Now her young son had to run from the sounds of gunfire walking home from school in September. 

"And for a while, my son didn't even want to walk from home school because of the shooting," she said. 

Simmons has carved out one day a week to stand with volunteers at the bus stops.

"I live here. I can't expect other people to do anything. I have to do what I can. And I just hope other people can come along and join us," Simmons said. 

"The intention is to also expand into Young Terrace with the more volunteers and assistance that we get with this, because we know this is not a monolith, it's happening over there to those children, too," said Johnson. 

Organizers with New Virginia Majority also said people in the community are asking city leaders for the installation of emergency call boxes. Those could also double up as additional lighting.

To learn more about how to volunteer with "Take Back the Bus Stop," you can email Monét Johnson at [email protected].

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