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Mixed Results: Coalitions Navigate Success and Setbacks in Pursuit of Philadelphia’s Progress

November 22, 2023 Category: FeatureFeaturedLong

While some coalitions work toward success, others don’t.

Coalitions come together to join forces to accomplish more, says Dyana Mason, Associate Professor in the School of Planning, Public Policy and Management at the College of Oregon. However, while coalitions in Philadelphia like The Civic Coalition to Save Lives are working to implement solutions, others like the Philadelphia Reentry Coalition (PRC) are looking to revise their plan because they have not yet reached their goal of reducing recidivism in Philadelphia by 25 percent. And The Promise has been implementing its five-year plan for nearly four years and is working to help people become economically mobile – but still has a way to go.

The Philadelphia Reentry Coalition (PRC)

The Philadelphia Reentry Coalition (PRC), which formed  to help organizations serving people involved with the justice system empower their clientele. It is a group of approximately 140 organizations.

“Depending on what the strengths of those organizations are, to help you know, have these individuals overcome their barriers, we will then work as an oversight organization to make this possible,” Pamela Superville, the Deputy Director of Office of Reentry Partnerships, which facilitates the PRC, said.

In 2015, PRC created a plan to reduce recidivism by 25 percent in five years called the Home for Good Initiative. This has not been done.

After slow downs in the Home for Good Plan due to leadership changes in PRC and COVID-19, the coalition will need to revisit the plan and start from scratch to build goals, Superville and Executive Director of Office Reentry Partnerships Assata Thomas, said.

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The Home for Good Plan will have to be rebooted and revisited, Thomas said.

“So now the new the new leadership of the of the coalition is actually going to revisit you know, first we gotta get the research, you know, before we make the statement and say, ‘Okay, we are going to reduce recidivism by a certain time,’ we’re actually getting ready to get some detailed research done to look at the recidivism numbers as they are currently in Philadelphia, and then we’d be able to make a determination,” Superville said.

It’s important to cut down the recidivism rate to help communities in places in which community members have been taken away from theirs due to incarceration, Thomas said.

“It brings back this restoration and balance to our communities, because the persons who have been impacted which are of course, mostly Black and Brown men, bringing them back into the community healthy and that’s part of the whole reentry process serves to restore the balance in the community with the men who are missing from said communities,” Thomas added.

Civic Coalition to Save Lives

Civic Coalition to Save Lives is focusing on Philadelphia’s demographic who is most impacted by gun violence: Men ages 26 through 29, Estelle Richman, the Executive Director of the Civic Coalition to Save Lives, explained.

However, while seventy-nine percent of gun violence victims are Black Philadelphians and 45 percent of victims are between the age 18 and 30, according to the City., “Victims and arrestees for shootings tend to be male, people of color, 18-35 years

old, and have a prior criminal history… often [occuring] several years prior to being arrested in a shooting incident, with many contacts happening before the age of 18,” according to a 2022 100 Shooting Review Committee Report.

“These things are still at highs where majority of it is Black, Black people being killed,” Pastor Carl Day, who is the founder and creator of   Beat the Block, a personal, career and business development program focused on serving young Black men between the ages of 18 and 25 who have been impacted by gun violence said.

“It’s a public safety crisis, but also as an issue that’s systemically racist in itself. Organizations shouldn’t have to keep doing so much just to get support to stop lives from being taken,” Day added.

Civic Coalition to Save Lives works with the city to make sure gun violence intervention programs have the resources they need. 

Even though the organization is focusing on this and gun violence homicide numbers have declined from the tragically high rates of 2022, they are still up from pre-pandemic numbers. As of mid-November there were 1,522 victims of shootings and twenty-two percent, meaning 335, of those incidents were fatal. Civic Coalition to Save Lives’ goal is to reduce these murders.

Consistency and creation of solutions by community based organizations working to address gun violence has led to the decline of homicides, Day explained.

Currently a special advisor about gun violence to the managing director, Richman has worked as the managing director of the City, in leadership positions at the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, as Secretary of Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and the Philadelphia Commissioner of Public Health.

She taps into relationships she’s built along her expansive career to help other organizations through Civic Coalition to Save Lives.

“I use that background and experience to talk to people, help them shape policy, helping them with information they wouldn’t normally have if they hadn’t been through some of these things,”  Richman said. “All those are strategies to help people refine what they’re doing and help them be more effective.”

Richman works with three programs through the Civic Coalition to Save Lives to help young men; The Group Violence Intervention Program, Pushing Progress Philly and the Community Crisis Intervention Program.

Civic Coalition to Save Lives also helps out non-governmental organizations working on the ground to reduce gun violence. One way it does this includes offering funds and tech where it’s needed.

“If a program says we need money for transitional housing, we can give them a grant to help them with transitional housing. Several, some of the programs that said we need laptops, tablets, IT systems we help them with that,” Richman said.

The organization has given a small amount of discretionary funds to Beat the Block.

While these funds weren’t huge chunks of money, it has helped cohort members and cohort alumni who were temporarily in financial crises, Day said.

“A lot of times those brothers may have certain needs in between their pay periods where they may be reaching out whether it’s for the children, whether it’s for themselves,” Day said. “We’ve been able to utilize discretionary funds to just be able to help them even if it’s  in between our cycles, you know, some of those men graduate and move on out of our program. We want to keep them focused, you know, so if it’s business cost that’s associated, we want to continue to try to make investments and what they have.”

Civic Coalition to Save Lives also purchased laptops for cohort members of Beat the Block which allowed Day and others at Beat the Block to digitize their programming. The laptops have also given cohort members a tool to continue work on launching their businesses with digital access, Day added.

“If they’re doing that for other organizations, I think that they’re doing an effective job they’re doing a pretty good job helping organizations where the help is needed,” Day said when Generocity asked about how Civic Coalition to Save Lives has helped eased or reduced gun violence in the city.


The Promise

The Promise is a coalition working to assist 100,000 Philadelphians get above the poverty level before 2025. A program from the United Way formed in 2020, The Promise collaborates with businesses, private philanthropies, organizations and government to help individuals with finances through helping them apply for public programs they are eligible for and doing financial counseling.

The goals of The Promise also include helping people enroll in legal support, tax preparation and employment services. It also plans to invest $10 million into family stability each year and improve the lives of 1.5 million people.

Multiple times, Generocity reached out to The Promise with questions about their progress on goals but it declined to comment as they said they were preparing for a mid-year City Council appropriation hearing.

The organization stated it has invested $10.9 million in family stability and served 92, 087 clients in their 2023 impact report.

There are just more than 357,334 Philadelphians living below the poverty line as of 2022 so The Promise has a lot more work to do to help 1000,000 people. The current number of people in poverty has decreased by 22,665 from the 380,000 people in poverty in 2020. This could be because the median income rose in 2022 by seven percent.

Coalitions are responsible for many large social movement wins in United States history, Mason said.

“In terms of collective impact, there’s some research that has demonstrated that sort of shared governance, or collaborative models around service delivery can have good impacts in terms of health outcomes, and environmental protections,” Mason explained. “There is good evidence that coalition’s and collaborations can meet their goals.”


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