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Gun Violence Report: Dollars and Sense

June 21, 2023 Category: FeatureFeaturedFundingLong


updated on 6/28/2023 at 8:57am to change TSIG to TCIG (typo)

Philadelphia is zeroing in on its funding efforts toward community-based organizations to address mounting gun violence in the city.

The City’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety (CJPS) cluster recently relaunched a grant program to support organizations that are focused on reducing violence through trauma-informed healing, restorative practices and mentorship. Originally launched in 2021, the Community Expansion Grant (CEG) program awarded $13.5 million in funding to 31 organizations.

“One of the critiques the city has gotten over eons is that you just throw money in the same place. We want to diversify. We want to meet new people. We want to engage with communities that are extremely vulnerable to violence,” Erica Atwood, senior director for CJPS, told Generocity. “We want to make sure that we’re spreading the resources in a way that is equitable, in a way that allows for diversity.”

The City of Philadelphia started with a micro-grant program with low barriers to access called TCIG to empower people doing anti-violence work in the city, reaching Philadelphians in ways the government cannot. TCIG can fund opportunities such as a community member taking kids to a baseball game.

“We want to do programmatic and long-term work, but we also know that there are episodic things that can happen that can pivot and create core memories for those who are at a high risk of violence,” Atwood said.

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CEG is meant to be an in-between for TCIG and larger state and federal grants. 

“The mission was to fund currently active programs that could begin some immediate interventions, with the hope that there is some long-term impact,” Atwood said.

And recent statewide initiatives are on the same page when it comes to where to put violence prevention funding dollars. In January the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) awarded $100.5 million in state and federal funds for two grant programs addressing community violence across Pennsylvania. One of the programs, Violence Intervention and Prevention (VIP) Competitive Grants, awarded $85.5 million to 122 organizations, 62 of which serve Philadelphia County and received about $50 million.

“PCCD has connected with Philadelphia’s Office of Violence Prevention (OVP) as part of efforts to align funding efforts at the state and city levels,” Samantha Z. Koch, director of policy & planning at PCCD, told Generocity

PCCD staff worked with Philadelphia’s OVP to determine if any organizations had grants with the city for similar programs to reduce duplication of funding. Still, some Philly-based organizations have been able to connect with funds through PCCD’s VIP grant and the City’s CEG program — Nicetown Community Development Corporation, YO-ACAP, Impact Services and Urban League of Philadelphia.

YO-ACAP received $540,713 from the city’s CEG grant and $545,051 from PCCD’s VIP grant. The VIP grant is funding the organization’s BUILD Bridge Program which provides youth with transitional jobs, case management, tutoring, and mentoring to prepare them for union careers in the building trades. While the CEG city grant is funding a new program to connect individuals at high risk of gun violence to YO-ACAP case management through barbers. 

courtesy image from YO-ACAP facebook page

“It gave a lot of different types of people and programs of different sizes a chance to go after these types of funds that normally wouldn’t be able to,” Duerwood Beale, executive director of YO-ACAP, told Generocity. Beale said applying for violence reduction funding has become more accessible, and even those who didn’t get funded were able to make connections with representatives for other opportunities.

For the inaugural barber program, it took several months to gain the trust of the young people identified by barbers, but YO-ACAP has made strides since launching in April 2022.

“Not only are they showing up, now they have become a referral source,” Kaliek Hayes, violence reduction case manager, told Generocity

For YO-ACAP success is not about the numbers but removing people from circumstances where they may commit a crime, and so far, they have been showing up to program meetings consistently where they can be connected to resources such as mental health support and job opportunities.  

“It’s not always easy. I mean out of 10, we might get one, but that one might have been the one pulling the trigger tomorrow,” Hayes said. 

So what happens after grant funding runs out?

Beale said as an organization provider he would like to see two-to-three year-long grant programs to give organizations time to create connections with other funding streams. Atwood said supporting the sustainability and longevity of the programs is on the city’s radar.

“One of the goals of our grant program is to support community-based organizations through financial means and technical assistance, to get them to the level in which they can diversify their funding and become less reliant on city grants,” Atwood said. 

But to keep funding going government entities need evidence the investments are beneficial.

“I know the challenge is that people want to see success now, but the problem is so deeply rooted,” YO-ACAP’s Beale said. “Once you get one, or two, or three, or four, or five or six, there’s always another five or six that are willing to jump into their spots. So these programs are so important.”

Both the city of Philadelphia and PCCD are in the process of determining the early outcomes and short-term impacts of these new investments in community organizations. 

The first CEG cohort ended in May and the city is working on compiling a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of the funding. And starting July 1, the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center and Temple University will conduct a comprehensive statewide evaluation initiative to examine the effectiveness of the PCCD grant programs. The evaluation will be a two-year program with plans to receive two reports during the project period.

Philadelphia city workers like Atwood of CJPS are confident about the impact investing in community-based organizations will have in not only reducing gun violence but improving Philadelphia communities more broadly.

“One of the goals that I have is to decolonize philanthropy,” Atwood said. “How do we make sure that we are leaning into not just evidence-based but promising practices, and supporting organizations that are on the ground?”



Can government investments decolonize philanthropy? Further your insights, read
“Philly’s Violence Prevention Grant Program Brought Mixed Results. Now What?”

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Can government investments decolonize philanthropy?

What measures should government funders take to enhance the effectiveness of their funding and investments?

What solutions do you have to reduce crime and increase public safety in Philadelphia?

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Philadelphia is zeroing in on its funding efforts toward community-based organizations to address mounting gun violence in the city.

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