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Grassroots group addresses root causes of systemic violence, disparities in St. Pete

“We know that our community has the answers. We have the solutions, but it's just bringing them out," said CDAT co-founder John Muhammad.

SAINT PETERSBURG, Fla. — Over the last five weeks, eight different shootings have shaken south St. Petersburg, and local community leaders say it’s time to address the root causes by seeing the community’s assets instead of its deficiencies.

“We always are looking for the strengths of the community,” said John Muhammad, co-founder of CDAT, the Community Development and Training Center. “We know that our community has the answers. We have the solutions, but it's just bringing them out.”

RELATED: St. Pete community takes stand against violence

CDAT’s other co-founder, Jabaar Edmond says the area has been plagued with years of disinvestment and other systemic inequalities that make problem-solving tough, but not impossible.

“We're dealing with decades of hardship and trauma,” he said. “The level of trauma that goes unaddressed with this is tremendous.”

That’s where CDAT steps in. For years, the group has been working to empower the community by offering various resources to address neighbors’ needs.

What works so well for Muhammad and Edmond is they know how to have conversations with people who are headed down the wrong road because they once walked that path, too. However, they’ve turned their lives around, leading others to do the same.

"We organize around building the community we want to have, as opposed to trying to stand in front of the bullets and poke our finger down the barrels of guns,” Muhammad said.

RELATED: New 'Enough is Enough' campaign to address gun violence, community issues in St. Petersburg

Among a few of the organization’s efforts, CDAT's rallied a street team to do everything from voter registration, to mask giveaways, even helping halt evictions -- and now working on increasing the peace.

"We put the team together specifically to target areas that were in need of resources, right, and the resources were available. And so, we launched about 10 to 12 people, five days a week," Muhammad

The team will be out this weekend, and the St. Petersburg NAACP wants the group more involved in city conversations about creating safer neighborhoods.

"We're gonna have to really buckle down for the long haul, because we didn't get here overnight,” Edmond said.

RELATED: St. Pete police officer released from hospital after shootout

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