November 12, 2021

Karl Johnson, alongside dedicated team members, works with the community to both prevent and stem the tide of violence by holding youth accountable and lifting up families.

As our community continues to face seemingly unrelenting challenges, remaining hopeful can feel like just as much of a challenge. Multnomah County’s Juvenile Service Division’s RISE (Resource Intervention Services to Empower) team knows that struggle all too well. 

The 11-person team includes juvenile court counselors who provide one-on-one support to youth whose lives have come to intersect with the justice system. The team works with community partners and agencies to coordinate treatment and interventions designed to address harmful behaviors. They enter the lives of young people at a pivotal point, when the trajectory of their future can change quickly. 

Lately, that work has become increasingly difficult as community members continue to reel from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic alongside financial, emotional and relational uncertainty, all against the backdrop of record levels of gun violence. 

“What happens with community violence is that hope gets lost because you’ve seen so much loss and so much trauma,” said Karl Johnson, an over 30-year employee at Multnomah County. 

Johnson, alongside dedicated team members, works with the community to both prevent and stem the tide of violence by holding youth accountable and lifting up families. They emphasize the importance of having caring adults and structure in a young person’s life, serving as that presence in the lives of youth who are experiencing setbacks. 

RISE also partners with parents, community organizations and schools to improve issues like school attendance. As our community comes back from immense challenges, “structure is fundamental,” says Johnson. 

“Young people thrive in structure. We know that. They grow in relationships. They also grow in structure. Give them something to do, give them purpose, so young people can grow.”

One of the best gifts that his job offers, Johnson says, is working with a youth “who comes back to us as an adult and says, Hey man, thank you. I appreciate what you did, I appreciate the conversation, I appreciate your drive. There were times I didn’t like you, but in the end, it all turned out pretty good.’”

For Johnson and his team, holding onto and instilling hope for change, even when it’s hard, remains worthwhile. 

Watch more in his own words: https://youtu.be/6DYq0drXWiY