People whose lives have been touched by gun violence are calling for the carnage to stop, especially among young black men.

"We now find ourselves standing at the crossroads, wondering which way to go as violence among our young people has once again reached devastating and overwhelming proportions," said Monica Willie of the Canadian Communities Youth Alliance in a news conference held Friday at City Hall.

Another speaker was Dana Lee Williams, wife of Tyshan Riley, a leader of the infamous Galloway Boys gang in Scarborough who is currently serving a life sentence for murder.

"We do live in a (world) of gang warfare," she said.

"Every day we struggle to come out the door. When I drive to work, I just hope to make it home. I don't know what to expect," said Williams, who started weeping. "I know I'm not doing anything wrong, but I still have to look over my shoulder."

Norris Allen, another member of the Galloway Boys and the father of her two children, was shot to death as part of a violent turf war with the Malvern Crew, a rival gang.

Both women appealed to young people to put down their weapons. They also asked governments to invest more in job creation, especially in Scarborough.

Toronto has had 59 homicides so far in 2010.

An estimated 26 of the 29 gun deaths in the city have involved young black males as victims.

One of the latest was Nicholas Yombo, 18, also known as Frenchy. Someone entered his family's River Street townhouse and shot him to death on Nov. 29. Two of his Regent Park friends were shot to death earlier this fall.

Police said Nicholas had been living a life of crime. His father Christian said the day after the murder, "I talked to him every day. But he didn't want to change."

A better path

Programs such as the Right Of Passage Experience (ROPE) are designed to help black youth between the ages of 13 and 18 stay on a non-violent path.

Program founder Micky Hutchinson told a recent meeting of his group: "If you are hanging out with your friends, and they are committing a lot of stupidity and errors, what do you need to do with them? Get rid of them."

Michael Jackson, a York University graduate, is one of those who needed that type of advice.

"Growing up, I didn't have a father and I was kind of questioning who I should trust," he told CTV Toronto. "This place allowed me to be open and share my problems."

Patrick Jones, a ROPE graduate who is attending the University of Toronto, added: "I've seen that there are successful black men out there, that you don't have to be just what's portrayed on TV."

Getting an education, building a career and having a family are achievable goals, he said.

The three-year-old ROPE has had about 40 young men complete the program. Virtually all are attending post-secondary education.

They plan to serve as ROPE mentors themselves to younger people.

With reports from Alicia Markson and Karlene Nation