BY NATHAN HOUSE
If you live in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood, you may have recently seen people walking or biking in the streets in high resolution vests in the early morning or late night. These are volunteers of Powderhorn Safety Collective (PSC), a group of neighbors committed to alternative methods of community safety.
One volunteer often out on the streets is Pouya, who, with his Great Dane Dobber, began alternative safety practices since the amount of reported violence escalated in the neighborhood this summer.
Pouya is one of the organizers and volunteers within PSC. I spoke with him recently about the organization and their involvement in the community.
According to Pouya, the main aim of PSC can be summed up as this: to strengthen the social fabric of the neighborhood. That includes help with safety, homelessness, making connections with neighbors.
“The original idea of PSC was to be a presence in the neighborhood and put people at ease,” said Pouya, who has several years of experience managing security for bars and music venues.
A driving factor that formed the organization was the gradual disintegration of the encampment on the east side of Powderhorn Park. As concern from neighbors grew, PSC formed as a response to ease tension.
An essential aspect behind PSC’s mission is not calling the police unless there is an immediate threat to one’s health or safety. “The police do not need to be here for a large percentage of calls for our neighborhood,” explained Pouya. People of color are statistically the most at risk for being in danger when interacting with a police officer. Therefore, responding to emergency situations involving a person of color is a top priority for PSC as it could potentially be lifesaving.
PSC volunteers sign up for time slots from either 11 p.m. to 3 a.m., or 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. each day. While someone signs up as a dispatcher, others will sign up for surveying the community on foot or by bike. Many volunteers have special qualifications. For example, there are nurses, mental health professionals, lawyers and de-escalation experts ready to help.
One of the benefits of PSC is that there are fast response times to situations where someone is in need of help. Recently, a neighbor heard someone screaming and informed PSC. The responders found a woman in distress and successfully got them to a safe place.
After a recent shooting near Columbus and 36th St., PSC volunteers quickly responded by walking to the intersection to check and see if anyone was hurt. When gun violence happens in the neighborhood, explained Pouya, volunteers
aren’t trying to scare the shooter or make threats. The idea is to check in on the neighbors and make sure that no one is hurt. After this particular incident, there was an overwhelming approval from neighbors as a result of PSC’s response tactics.
But there have been instances of danger. In one particular incident, Pouya and another volunteer responded to gunshots near Chicago and 35th St. Someone attempted to cross the street as the shooting happened, and the volunteers helped them cross as bullets continued to fly overhead. They got to a safe place and helped the pedestrian calm down.
Although PSC members do not carry firearms or encourage violence, they will accept a new volunteer with a license to carry. Pouya stressed that using a firearm during a shift is highly unlikely and is strongly discouraged.
“PSC is constantly evolving,” said Pouya. “We need bodies. We need people willing to be out on the streets at night, or work with administration, help fundraising, getting a website up, and communicating with organizations like ours.
“We are the power as neighbors, and we are the ones who can rely on each other and not the police,” said Pouya.
You don’t need special skills to be a volunteer. If you’re interested in joining PSC, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.