By Brian Saunders
PHILADELPHIA — During a virtual response to gun violence in Philadelphia, city representatives and Philadelphia Housing Authority announced a partnership.
The Violence Prevention Support Services initiative will deliver services to people ages 18-34 who live in PHA housing and are at high risk of involvement in gun violence.
“Our objective is to provide them with social services support and resources, including connecting them and providing them with mentoring, job training, and other training opportunities,” PHA President and CEO Kelvin Jeremiah said.
The PHA collaborates with Philadelphia’s Resident Advisory Board (RAB) on this initiative.
“The RAB represents PHA residents from across all parts of the city, and they have a deep understanding of the needs of the communities we serve,” added Jeremiah. They are well-positioned to lead this effort. I want to thank them and the Mayor for this important collaboration that will reach the young men in these communities.”
The Violence Prevention Support Services initiative will look to prevent violence by identifying and providing outreach to those most susceptible to gun violence and expanding services available to those people.
“As we fight to protect our communities and do everything we can to create a safer Philadelphia, we continue to strive towards stronger collaboration and coordination across all our services— with a strong focus on neighborhoods and areas of the city that are most impacted by violence,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “This partnership with PHA is a meaningful step forward that will help enhance our ability to deliver resources, supports, and services to the people most in need.”
Asia Coney, a Resident Commissioner with PHA, said that the initiative would also work with organizations Every Murder Is Real (EMIR) and the Father’s Day Rally Committee. Coney said that collaboration has 102 years of service working to advocate and provide support and services to individuals, families, and communities.
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“So we know, and I know that we are more than capable of getting the job done,” Coney said. We are reaching out to over 435 young men between 18 to 34. We will find a way to service those individuals. EMIR will conduct part of the activities or workshops that deal with tragedy and trauma. We often talk about violence, but we need to get deeper into how it affects individuals. Often we don’t realize that they are residual problems that caused many of our young folks to be on edge and react in very negative and violent manners.”
The five PHA housing sites that will launch the program are Bartram Village, Strawberry Mansion Apartments & Gordon Apartments, Wilson Park, Raymond Rosen, and Richard Allen.
The program will have two phases. Phase one will consist of 10 weeks of facilitated financial, professional, and mental health support with the opportunity to earn $1,000 by achieving milestones.
The second phase will work with participants with mental health support
and skill-building and job training.
Also, during the media briefing, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw acknowledged the collective grief after the mass shootings in Buffalo and Texas over the last week and a half.
“It leaves us wondering when this unrelenting suffering will end,” Outlaw said. “We also extend our deepest condolences to the victims, their families, and communities that all of these incidents have touched. This isn’t normal. It’s not okay. And we refuse to accept this as our norm. The number of people who’ve lost their lives in this city is not and will not ever be expected. Never. We as human beings have the right to go to the store to a mall to movie theaters, and quite frankly, to be free of fear wherever we go.”
Philadelphia has experienced 188 homicides this year, 168 by guns. Overall there have been 679 nonfatal shootings in the city this year. This week, three students were shot near Simon Gratz High School and Mastery Prep Elementary Charter School.
“In light of these incidents, we’ve increased our patrols around schools and other areas where large groups congregate,” Outlaw said. “And in addition to school police and Philadelphia police school beat presences, patrol officers will be making area checks around schools to ensure that everyone is safe. I want to assure the public that we’re using every resource available to ensure that our students finish the school year safely. So everyone across the city can enjoy warmer weather ahead of the Memorial Day weekend as safely as possible. We will be increasing our patrols throughout the city.”