HOUSTON - Three months after 11-year-old Josue Flores was murdered walking home from Marshall Middle School, neighbors in that near Northside neighborhood are teaming up with police and each other to make sure kids walking to and from school will be safe.
In the field behind Flores’ school, neighbors gathered for a prayer circle Saturday morning, a show of faith and unity and a struggle to understand a tragedy that’s still painful beyond words.
“We don’t want the things that happened last year to happen again,” said one of the men taking part in the circle.
Starting Monday, the Northside community will take new steps to protect their kids heading back to school.
“There was just something that had to be done,” said Stella Mireles Walters, who grew up in the neighborhood. That something, for Walters, was organizing the Safe Walk Home Northside campaign.
“During the time students are going to school and coming back, we will get outside of our homes, stand in the yard, sit on our porches, and watch them,” said Walters.
Walters says nearly 100 community members have signed up and are being trained by the city on how to ID a suspect and render first aid.
Michael Harrison, Principal at Marshall Middle School, says his school is partnering with the campaign and introduced it during orientation in the last week.
“We’ve had several parents volunteer and sign up,” said Harrison. Harrison and several neighbors praised the city for their help over the summer.
“We had a patrol unit in the summer basically walking the streets, and more police presence in the community has made a big difference,” he said.
“I think it’ll be a safer school year for the kids,” agreed Sal Basaldua, a father of two boys.
Students say they’re grateful there’s more awareness of the issues facing the neighborhood.
“It makes me feel better knowing that people know the situation,” said Jason Mata, an 11-year-old student.
Organizers are hoping to have enough volunteers to keep the Safe Walk Home Northside program going the entire school year.
Northside residents planning to watch over kids walking to/from school next week in response to Josue Flores murder. pic.twitter.com/uh9JQBNqil— Adam Bennett (@AdamBennettKHOU) August 20, 2016