SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – After nine homicides since May – including four this week – residents in and around San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley are reeling.

But for children in the neighborhood, there is a shelter from the storm.

Everyday, 11-year-old DeMonte Smith escapes the gangs and crime that are often associated with his neighborhood, playing and learning at the Visitacion Valley Clubhouse.

KCBS’ Jeffrey Schaub Reports:

“It’s a place to come instead of being on the streets and doing bad things,” Smith said. “We can just come here and have fun and do the right thing instead of doing a bad thing.”

The clubhouse is run by the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco.

“Our job here at the club is really to be an oasis for the kids, a safe place and safe haven for kids throughout the community,” said Maurice Goodman, with the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco. “That they can come here and the goal is to disarm them and let them be kids.”

The center is open yearlong and staff coordinate playtime for the children. But they also teach life skills and take the kids on field trips around San Francisco.

But many times, all of the activities don’t allow for a complete escape from what happens in the neighborhood. Goodman said one boy lost his dad to violence just this past week.

“He tried to remain strong. He hasn’t come to the club. He’s with family,” he said. “The best we can do here at the club is to make sure that all of the kids that are affected by it have an opportunity to talk if need-be.”

Overall, Goodman said he is optimistic that the center will provide kids an opportunity to overcome the obstacles they may face in the neighborhood and lead them on a better path.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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