BALTIMORE (WJZ) — As of Friday, there have been 88 homicides in Baltimore in 2021. One anti-violence group is working with young men to break this cycle of violence.

A work program uses mental health therapy to help Baltimore’s young men with troubled pasts. At L&J Waste and Recycling, these men are putting in a hard day’s work, a different way of life for Dennis.

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“I actually just got locked up before, I was skipping school,” said Dennis, a ROCA program participant.

His past, so similar to many of Baltimore’s young men, until the anti-violence program picked him up.

“We find them on the streets of Baltimore, we bring them on and we teach them how to work,” said Joseph Brown, with ROCA.

But what’s different, and why they say the program works, is the cognitive behavioral therapy.

“We help them out with mental health as well,” Brown said.

Which includes using cards to talk about emotions.

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“We bring these cards out when a young man has lost his cool,” Brown explained.

Then, ROCA pairs men like Dennis to train and work at local businesses such as L&J.

“When we was approached by ROCA, I did have some hesitancy,” said Lenzie Johnson, with L&J.

But now, Johnson is a believer. He hired Dennis on full-time and encouraged other businesses to take ROCA workers.

“ROCA has prepared them to come to me and be a success story by giving them the wraparound support,” Johnson said.

He knows a troubled past, doesn’t mean a hopeless future.

“I was a gentleman like Dennis thirty years ago, so now I have to give back and look at how I can help the next generation,” Johnson said.

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“It helped me get my life together,” Dennis said.

Annie Rose Ramos