253 Grassroots Groups Receive $2.5M to Build Peace in Neighborhoods Hardest Hit by Gun Violence
Mayor Johnson and Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities collaborate to expand the 2023 PSPC Chicago Fund
CHICAGO (May 25, 2023) | The Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities (PSPC), a coalition of more than 50 foundations and private funders working together to support promising solutions to addressing gun violence, today announces 253 grassroots organizations will receive over $2.5 million in grants from its 8th annual Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities. In addition to the Chicago Fund’s summertime programming focus, Mayor Johnson has partnered with PSPC this year to significantly expand the Chicago Fund’s total investment into communities through public-private partnerships to engage more young people in activities over Memorial Day and during the gap between the end of the CPS school year and the beginning of Chicago Park District programming.
“We are grateful for this first opportunity to collaborate with Mayor Johnson to make Chicago a safer city for all,” said Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities Executive Director Esther Franco-Payne. “Chicago’s foundation community is one-hundred percent committed to strengthening the partnerships needed to make violence prevention a permanent feature of Chicago’s public safety strategy. We are thrilled to once again support residents coming together to make their neighborhoods safer throughout the summer and fall with Chicago Fund grants. We remain deeply committed to supporting promising, multi-layered approaches as a key component of a coordinated strategy to reduce gun violence in Chicago.”
Since PSPC was established in 2016, the coalition of funders has grown to more than 50 members who have committed over $140 million to four broad, evidence-based strategies: Community Violence Intervention (including READI Chicago and Communities Partnering 4 Peace); police reform and community engagement; gun policy; and the PSPC Chicago Fund grants program supporting grassroots efforts and neighborhood activities that create safe spaces and promote peace.
“As we look ahead to Memorial Day weekend, it is extremely important to offer Chicagoans a wide array of programming and resources to stay safe and engaged during the long weekend and through the summer,” said Mayor Johnson. “Today illustrates our commitment to working together across government, business, and community sectors — and with philanthropic organizations like the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities coalition — to bring solutions to communities most impacted by violence and advance our vision for a safer, stronger Chicago.”
Groups will use PSPC Chicago Fund grants to host activities throughout the summer and fall in 24 neighborhoods on the South and West Sides that experience high levels of gun violence. This year marks the eighth year PSPC has facilitated neighborhood grants through the Chicago Fund, which provides grants of up to $10,000 to small, neighborhood organizations engaged in community-led approaches to increasing community cohesion, safety and peace. Since 2016, PSPC Chicago Fund has provided $8.3 million in support of 1,260 projects across Chicago’s most impacted neighborhoods on the South and West sides.
Grantee activities range from community gardening, mentoring, arts and culture, music festivals, youth sports programs, block clubs, and wellness activities. The majority of 2022 Chicago Fund grantees (over 80%) reported that they believe their organization was very effective in creating safe and peaceful communities, and very effective in strengthening community bonds.
“I have spent hours listening as Chicago Fund awardees shared their visions, plans, ideas, and dreams for their neighbors. Most want the same things we all want — a safe place to call home,” said Jai Jones, Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities’ project specialist at The Chicago Community Trust. “What struck me the most in my conversations was that they never spoke about the violence. Their focus is not on the worst parts of the neighborhood but rather illuminating the best parts of it.”
The grant application review committee — made up of funders, a community development practitioner and a former Chicago Fund grantee — identified these projects as 2023 Chicago Fund grant recipients after reviewing a total of 296 applications.
- No Matter What (Englewood) will hire young people to run a community garden and create a safe haven for families in the community
- Project One Ten (Austin, Englewood, Humboldt Park, North Lawndale, South Chicago, South Shore, Washington Park, West Englewood, Woodlawn) will facilitate a camp for 8th grade boys, helping them to build skills that will keep them safe and make positive choices as they prepare for high school
- Project Purity (Austin) will host a youth wellness program that teaches the holistic principles of wellness, mind, body and soul
- Sacred Ground Ministries (Englewood, Greater Grand Crossing, South Shore, Woodlawn) will host culinary classes for young people and expose them to the culinary industry and career path
- Union Impact Center (Back of the Yards) will provide a soccer sports program for young people, employing older youth alumni as coaches
“This grant opportunity means that we are able to help more young people stay off of the streets and involving themselves in negative activities,” said Charles Mckenzie of Englewood First Responders. “We believe giving young people the opportunity to be a part of the solution helps them to dream bigger.”
PSPC funding continues for key pillars of public safety
PSPC’s Chicago Fund is a supplement to the larger, longer-term efforts PSPC supports to reduce violence and ensure community safety. In the time since PSPC began, Chicago has made some important progress in building out these key pillars that will enable advances in public safety. Yet much more remains to be done to scale the solutions that match the need.
Making Chicago a safe city where residents can live, work and play, will require collaboration across sectors, jurisdictions, and agencies to put in place a comprehensive plan that prioritizes:
- investing and serving those at highest risk of violence
- providing alternative opportunities for high-risk youth
- establishing effective and constitutional policing
- focusing economic investment and job development in communities most impacted by violence
- implementing strategies, policies, and practices for smart gun safety policies
- promoting public-private coordination
A critical and continued focus for PSPC is scaling up Community Violence Interruption (CVI), an approach focused on individuals at the highest risk of shooting or being shot that uses evidence-informed strategies to reduce violence through tailored community-centered initiatives. Since 2016, PSPC’s funding has supported the development of a network of CVI practitioners who are scaling and professionalizing street outreach and providing direct services to people at highest risk of gun violence involvement in more than 27 communities.
“We are encouraged that studies to evaluate the impact of several Chicago CVI initiatives PSPC supports — including READI Chicago and Communities Partnering 4 Peace — are showing promising signs of keeping young people safer,” said Crown Family Philanthropies President Evan Hochberg. The Center for Neighborhood Engaged Research & Science (Corners) is leading an evaluation of Communities Partnering 4 Peace, and University of Chicago Crime Lab is leading an evaluation of READI Chicago.
Other key current focus areas for PSPC funding include deep resource and CVI coordination in West Garfield Park and North Lawndale, as well as efforts to reimagine public safety and develop a supportive policy environment to ensure the long-term success of individual violence reduction initiatives.
“Chicago’s South and West sides are filled with organizations that are keeping neighborhoods safe and helping people feel more connected to each other,” said Deborah Bennett, senior program officer for Polk Bros. Foundation and member of PSPC. “These organizations know what it takes to strengthen their communities. They just need more resources.”
About the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities
The Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities (PSPC) is a coalition of more than 50 foundations and funders working together to identify and support community-led, evidence-based solutions to addressing gun violence. PSPC formed in 2016 when several Chicago foundations came together to act with urgency and alignment in response to Chicago’s dual crises of gun violence and police legitimacy. As work began, this initial group of funders recognized the lack of a coordinated citywide plan to reduce gun violence and that Chicago required a more comprehensive and strategic approach. PSPC members align their funding to facilitate hyperlocal support to community organizers, community-based organizations, neighborhood block clubs, and other grassroots initiatives designed to build safety and cohesion in neighborhoods on the city’s South and West sides that experience high levels of violence. Since its 2016 founding, PSPC has committed more than $140 million to anti-violence efforts in Chicago. PSPC’s comprehensive, four-point approach includes: neighborhood-based initiatives, including street outreach and transitional jobs; reimagining and reforming public safety systems; creating a supportive policy environment; and supporting community leadership. Learn more at https://safeandpeaceful.org/.
See the full 2023 list of grantees.
tkremer (at) polkbrosfdn.org