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In tour of hospital, Mayor Walsh vows to tackle violence

Martin Walsh and Felix Arroyo

Wendy Maeda / Globe Staff

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and newly appointed Health and Human Services Secretary Felix Arroyo toured the Boston Medical Center Kitchen.

In the middle of a meeting with hospital advocates who work with victims of violence, Mayor Martin J. Walsh leaned forward and asked for an anecdote.

“Give me one story,” he said Wednesday.

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A 25-year-old Roxbury man, seated around a conference room table with officials from the city and Boston Medical Center, removed his hand from his chin and recounted his journey back from the brink: how he was shot twice, how he was brought to the hospital and recovered, and how he is trying to get his life back.

“Now, I feel really good about myself,’’ he said, thanking members of the hospital’s Violence Intervention Advocacy Program for helping him find a temporary full-time job.

Walsh listened intently, hands on chin, quietly absorbing every word.

Two days after becoming mayor, Walsh has made tackling entrenched violence and the problems its breeds -- trauma and pain -- central to his new administration. He affirmed his commitment to addressing violence by naming acting Police Commissioner William Evans as the permanent leader of the Boston Police Department. At one of his first meetings in the mayor’s office, Walsh convened ministers and other antiviolence advocates to address shootings and mayhem that plague pockets of the city.

Wednesday, he came to Boston Medical Center, the city’s leading trauma center serving many victims of crime. He walked through the emergency room, where patients in hospital gowns rested.

He stopped at the office where specialists tackle substance abuse, and swung by the food pantry and tasted samplings from the demonstration kitchen. He paused in the lobby of the hospital’s cancer wing, and then sat down with members of the Violence Intervention Advocacy Program in a small conference room.

At each stop, Walsh, flanked by members of his health and human services team, greeted doctors and nurses, security officers and receptionists.

Officials at the antiviolence program discussed how advocates head straightaway to the hospital rooms of patients who have been shot or stabbed, and work with their clients long after they have been released. Advocates help them find jobs, homes, and, in a small yet important way, peace of mind.

The program, which partners with the Police Department and the Boston Public Health Commission, also provides trauma and mental health counseling. But it relies on a patchwork of funding, from the health commission, the hospital, and the federal government. Program leaders asked the mayor to help ensure it has a reliable, singular funding stream. And the mayor promised to look into securing more funding.

The Roxbury man, who asked not to be identified, sat next to his advocate, Kendall Bruce, who has been helping him get straight and back on his feet.

“She’s been in my life for the last five years -- always on me about getting a job,’’ he said. “I definitely thank Miss Bruce.”

Bruce, long a champion of the underserved, has counseled people with HIV, people involved with crime, people on the edge. The young man was one of her first clients. His friend had been murdered. He’s a good person, the advocate said.

His road up has not been easy, she said.

“I’ll be there when he falls,’’ Bruce said. Then quietly, she added: “I’ll be with him.”

Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com.
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