The Office of Policy and Strategic Initiatives for Criminal Justice & Public Safety (CJPS) shared the results which are the culmination of a yearlong independent program evaluation for the first year of the Community Expansion Grant program (CEG) whose focus “is to provide direct trauma-informed healing and restorative practices or safe havens and mentorship programs in the neighborhoods most affected by gun violence,” according to a news release.
“I am proud of what this pilot program achieved right out of the gate as a first of its-kind program,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “There have been some bumps, but we expected that in a program that is new and being tested to see what works, and what doesn’t.
“In the face of a crisis as urgent and complex as gun violence, it is worthwhile to explore every possible solution and resource. This program was also implemented during the pandemic, which is a huge obstacle to navigate, and I am encouraged by the findings of the independent evaluation.
“Success does not happen overnight and persistence is part of the process,” Kenney continued. “We have an incredible team working on this initiative and I know the second cohort is going to continue some of the work that has been started, and new programs and ideas will be tested and funded so we can keep improving the model.”
As laid out in the evaluation, which was conducted by Philadelphia-based organization Equal Measure, in October 2021 the CEG program saw $13.5 million awarded in grants to 31 organizations, 28 of which completed their grant-funded programming which focused on “serving Black and Brown boys and men (ages 16-34) in areas most impacted by gun violence.”
According to city officials, the most significant finding of the evaluation is that “most of the grantees are reaching the intended audience of the CEG program: Black and Latinx men ages 16-34,” which the city views as a major indicator of success for the initiative.
Moving forward, the city is expected to implement recommendations from the evaluation that include “prioritizing organizations that focus on targeted outreach to those most at risk of being involved in gun violence; providing training and skill building opportunities for frontline workers; and increasing funding for organizations specializing in providing interventions, conflict resolution, and mediation services.”
“The Community Expansion Grant program is just one of the programs and initiatives in the city’s violence prevention portfolio, but it is a vital one,” said Erica Atwood, senior director for CJPS. “There are many community organizations on the ground throughout Philadelphia doing the life-saving work of violence prevention every day. Many of them do this work on a shoe-string budget, or no budget at all.
“The CEG program is a way for the city to support the capacity of these essential organizations and to show them that we have their backs, not just symbolically, but financially as well.”
Alec Larson is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.