Partners Highlight Outreach Strategies, Collaboration, Research, and Funding

Chicago’s growing community of violence prevention organizations gathered in Garfield Park, 100 North Central Park Avenue, today to update each other and the public on a range of topics including summertime outreach activities, neighborhood collaborations, the latest research and public and private funding.

The event opened with a welcome from Marshall Hatch, Sr. of the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in West Garfield Park and Marshall Hatch, Jr., who runs MAAFA Redemption Project.

Reverend Hatch said, “I am continually amazed by the potential and genius we discover and uncover in our work with young men in West Garfield Park. We have found that the young people in our community are not the problem, but they hold the keys to solving many of the problems we face.”

Marshall Hatch Jr. said, “We are here because of our unyielding commitment to our young people. We will continue investing in them because, in many ways, they’re our last hope. Gun violence is the moral issue of our time. Who better to lead us to better days than those who have been impacted by it the most?”

Several participants in violence prevention programs also spoke about the work, sharing their stories and affirming the critical need to broaden the network of violence programs to reduce gun violence.

Rashaniece White of Roseland is a life coach with Chicago CRED after completing the program as a participant. She said, “Being a part of Chicago CRED has changed my life tremendously. Coming into the program I was facing a lot of insecurities in my life. Chicago CRED helped to nurture my mind, build my confidence and guide me towards greatness.”

Aaron Taylor of West Pullman served time for a gun charge before enrolling with Chicago CRED in 2019. Now trained as a welder, he said, “Where I’m from, opportunity is rare. When real opportunity is offered, I never run from it.”

The gathering included an update on gun violence year-to-date showing total shootings citywide down 15%. Some of the largest declines in shootings are in neighborhoods where violence prevention organizations are most active, including North Lawndale, Roseland, West Pullman, Englewood, Austin and West Garfield Park.

The event included remarks from representatives of violence prevention organizations, including READI Chicago, Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P) and Chicago CRED. Collectively these three organizations have served thousands of people with direct outreach, life coaching, counseling, education and employment.

Vaughn Bryant, CP4P Executive Director said, “We are thankful for the sustained support we have received from the city, county, state and philanthropic community. It allows us to support 14 organizations providing hyperlocal, trauma-informed services in 26 vulnerable neighborhoods across Chicago. We also look forward to increasing the capacity of our Metropolitan Peace Academy, which has trained hundreds of outreach, case manager and victim advocate professionals.”

On behalf of CP4P, Yolanda Fields, Executive Director of Breakthrough, one of the CP4P organizations spoke at the event along with Damien Morris, Breakthrough’s Senior Director of Violence Prevention Services. Breakthrough serves the East Garfield Park community.

Roseanna Ander, Executive Director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab shared research on the READI Program showing that READI ?works with the men most at risk for gun violence ?, and that participants experienced 63% fewer arrests for shootings and homicides compared with others with a similar backgrounds who were not served by READI.

Jorge Matos, Senior Director of READI Chicago said, “The individuals we’re engaging have been victimized and marginalized and are living in a cycle of trauma and violence. READI’s cognitive behavioral interventions are key to supporting our guys as they change their patterns of thinking and continue to work with us to set themselves on a better, stronger path forward.”

Frank Perez, Director of Violence Intervention and Prevention Services at UCAN, also offered an update on the North Lawndale Collaboration, a unique partnership underway comprising READI, CRED and CP4P, UCAN and the North Lawndale Employment Network. The Collaboration’s goal is to serve at least 50 percent of the estimated 1250 young people at risk – in just that one neighborhood.

By serving a critical mass of individuals, the NL Collaborative hopes to reach a tipping point that breaks the cycle of retaliatory shootings driving much of Chicago’s gun violence. The larger goal is to demonstrate that violence prevention at scale can both transform individual lives and transform whole communities.

Perez said, “It is vitally important to hire and support ‘credible messengers’ with authentic relationships in the community and with the people we are looking to reach. If we can scale up that proven-to-work model, success is within our reach as a collaborative in terms of having a lasting impact on violence in North Lawndale and across the entire city.”

Northwestern University’s Northwestern Neighborhood and Network Initiative (N3) has also released several research briefs on CP4P that show that the program reduces gun violence in the communities it serves and reduces victimization among participants.

An N3 study
for Chicago CRED shows that the number of fatal and non-fatal gunshot injuries across CRED participants in the Roseland neighborhood decreased by 50% and arrests for violent crimes decreased 48% in the 18 months after joining the program.

Soledad McGrath, Executive Director of N3, also shared new research on the Flatlining Violence Inspires Peace (FLIP) program, which puts participants at hot spots during summer evenings to discourage shootings. The new research shows that, when FLIP workers are present at hot spots, shootings virtually drop to zero. The report also mentions that FLIP workers were responsible for over 600 interventions last summer and negotiated 47 non-aggression agreements among opposing street factions.

Now in its fifth year, FLIP kicks off on May 25th
with approximately 400 peacekeepers covering 86 locations in 12 Chicago neighborhoods: Austin, East and West Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, North Lawndale, Little Village, Brighton Park, Back of the Yards, Englewood, Grand Crossing, Roseland and West Pullman.

Chris Patterson, who heads up the Office of Violence Prevention in the Illinois Department of Public Health highlighted public funding commitments for violence totaling $118M in 2022, including both state, and local funding.

“Governor JB Pritzker recognized and understood the critical need to address violence prevention. His unwavering commitment has brought a serious commitment of financial resources into these unprecedented efforts to stop the violence in our communities’ approaches like advancing summer jobs, investing in behavioral health and youth development programs. We are working to advance programs that prevent violence and keep people safe. We are honored to be partnering with so many dedicated organizations that will make a difference for so many individuals,” Patterson said.

Tawa Mitchell of the MacArthur Foundation co-chairs the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities, a coalition of 50 private donors and foundations who have been funding violence prevention programs since 2016. They recently announced 201 community grants to support grassroots organizations across the city leading summertime and early fall anti-violence initiatives and activities.

“These grants will help hyperlocal organizations bring together communities in positive ways and restore a sense of safety and hope,” said Mitchell. “This is so important to Chicago’s future. We have been funding violence prevention efforts and it’s clearer and clearer that these programs are making a difference.”

CRED Founder Arne Duncan closed the event by saluting city and state officials and community leaders across the city who are working more closely together than ever before.

“We have built something really special in Chicago – a violence prevention network serving dozens of neighborhoods across the city. The architecture is in place. Now, we need to take this to scale,” Duncan said.

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