White House gun violence program with philanthropies ends
NEW YORK It was small as Washington celebrations go. Two senior Biden administration advisors gathered near the White House on a Thursday in December to celebrate the end of a lesser-known initiative that had a budget of less $8 million.
The impact of The Community Violence Intervention Collaborative (CVIC), though, may yet be larger, both in the fight to slow the growth of gun violence and in the way philanthropy and government work together. The Biden administration used CVIC to get public funding to fight gun violence to 50 grassroots organizations that would normally be too small to get federal funding directly, as well as training and other support for 18 months to prepare them to receive even more funding. Some participants applauded the effort, while others felt that the president could have supported it more strongly.
There was an air of momentum at the CVIC celebration. This, according to Nancy Fishman, director of the Schusterman Family Philanthropies. It is a sign of what she and others hope will be a shift in government approaches to public safety. It was more than just the presence of non-profit leaders, who often work without pay or recognition.
Daamin X Durden, executive director of the Newark Community Street Team, called it surreal “to be with one another, to hear the testimony and the journey experience and just to share that camaraderie and fidelity for one another.”
On top of that, each of the 50 community violence interruption organizations at the celebration in the office building across from the White House also received $20,000, as a final “mini-grant,” which Durden said was much appreciated because it came with few strings attached. A nonprofit, Hyphen, coordinated this initiative that included mentorship, peer exchanges, and training provided by five national nonprofits.
Aqeela Sharrills, Hyphen’s advisor, believes that more officials and communities understand that violence interruption is a complement to policing and not an anti-police strategy. He said that we don’t expect our cops to be all things, to be teachers and lawyers as well as counselors and therapists.
President Joe Biden announced the initiative in June 2021 shortly after the one year anniversary of George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police. During the second summer of the pandemic, hundreds were being shot daily, as the jump in gun homicides that started in 2020 across the country continued.
As one piece of the administration’s response, Biden urged local governments to use coronavirus relief funds to strengthen public safety through investments in police as well as community-based programs.
CVIC was another component of the public safety plan. It was designed to prepare grassroots groups for more public funding. This included strengthening their infrastructure and sharing best practices in program design.
” The theory of change for this collaboration was to focus on community organizations that were hardest to reach, and that were doing incredible local work, and had very little support.” Fatimah Loren dreier, who heads the Health Alliance for Violence Intervention (one of the organizations that provides training), said. Decades of research have shown that small groups of people are responsible for a large number of gun violence and homicides within any given community. Violence interruption programs seek to identify those people, with some working out of hospitals, others offering a carrot-and-stick approach along with the police, while others provide cognitive behavior therapy and mentoring.
If people agree to participate, programs often provide economic assistance such as paying rent or food and connecting them with job trainings or other skill development — interventions that show the close relationship between poverty and violence.
The collaborative’s track record in terms of funds delivered is mixed. According to an academic analysis of Treasury Department data, six cities have not yet reported that they intend to use coronavirus relief funds for violence interruption.
Community violence interruption programs could be funded by about $350 billion included in the American Rescue Plan available for states, cities and municipalities to use for a broad range of programs, as well as another $120 billion in aid for schools.
Alex Johnson, of the California Wellness Foundation, which funded early models of violence interruption in the 1990s, said many officials who control local budgets still do not understand the value of the approach.
The Department of Justice recently awarded grants to four cities, including Newark, and several grassroots organizations.
Amanda Kass, of DePaul University, and Philip Rocco, of Marquette University, have been studying the use of coronavirus relief funds with support from The Joyce Foundation. They warn that numerous factors make it difficult to track spending, especially since municipalities have until 2026 to finalize their plans.
So far, Kass and Rocco found participating cities allocated $71.7 million toward violence interruption programs — less than 1% of the $7.8 billion in coronavirus relief funds available. The study did not include Washington, D.C., or Rapid City, South Dakota.
Some CVIC members said that they expected more money from the initiative. Dujuan Kennedy, who is the leader of FORCE Detroit’s violence interruption work, felt that Biden was not sincere in his support.
“It might be a talking point. He said, “People are really dying out here.” “People are really dying out here.”
In the summer, Pastor Mike McBride, the leader of the nonprofit Live Free USA, who has advocated for violence interruption for two decades, invited Kennedy and others to attend the signing ceremony at the White House for the gun safety legislation that helped states put in place “red flag” laws and included $250 million in funds for violence interruption. Kennedy was turned away by the U.S. Secret Service at the gates along with several others due to his manslaughter conviction. According to a spokesperson for the U.S. Secret Service, Kennedy and others did not meet federal security entrance requirements and that the White House made the decision.
“My problem with that is: How do you acknowledge us and say that we are responsible enough to curb violence but you’re allowing your records to prevent you from standing on the front lawn?” Kennedy stated.
Kennedy does not want an apology, but instead, a path to redemption for people like him that are saving lives in their communities and have made amends to the loved ones who were hurt or killed.
Archana Saghgal, president of Hyphen said that the White House gathering in Dec proved there is no room between words and actions. She said she expects funding to stop violence interruption to rise as a result.
Julie Rodriguez is a senior advisor to Biden and has been a champion of the collaborative. She was unable to be interviewed and didn’t respond to a request to comment.
Nina Revoyr is the Ballmer Group’s Los Angeles leader and believes that the White House has given violence interruption work a new level in credibility and legitimacy. This, along with George Floyd’s death by Minneapolis police officers and the suffering and anger caused the pandemic has created a moment when both foundations as well as governments are more open for violence interruption investments.
” “It’s not like the work hasn’t existed,” Revoyr stated. “What has shifted is the moment in time.”
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