Few neighborhoods have been as impacted by the spike in gun violence as West and Southwest Philadelphia.
On Sunday evening, a 25-year-old man was killed and a 24-year-old pregnant woman was wounded in a shooting on the 7700 block of Lindbergh Boulevard in Southwest Philadelphia. Police said the man had been shot multiple times while he was laying on the ground. The woman was hospitalized in stable condition.
No one was arrested.
A surge in such shootings over the last 18 months has not only left law enforcement scrambling for resources, it has also overwhelmed some of the agencies that provide relief to those most affected by gun violence: victims and their families.
But a new collaboration in West Philadelphia may help fix it.
The Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia, a nonprofit that offers free grief counseling and support services, announced Monday that its office at 56th and Chestnut Streets will soon house representatives from other organizations, as well as victim-support staff from the District Attorney’s Office. The idea is that the agencies, which serve different purposes and have been inundated with calls from residents desperate for services, can now pool resources and operate under one roof.
Organizers say the partnership — dubbed the West/Southwest Collaborative Response to Gun Violence — is the only one in the city that combines grassroots organizations, a government agency, and academics working together in the same physical space to support victims of gun violence and prevent crime. Natasha Danielá de Lima McGlynn, executive director of the Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia, said the new “shared communal hub” will provide everything from food assistance to yoga therapy.
With the city on pace for a record number of homicides this year, the Rev. Myra Maxwell, director of the victims support unit in the District Attorney’s Office, said there are far more people affected by the killing of a loved one than her staff has the ability to serve on its own.
“The impact of gun violence has really created the need for collaborative responses,” she said, “which means that we have to do things differently.”
Citywide this year, more than 1,900 people have been shot, about 8% more than at the same point last year, which was one of the most violent on record. Homicides this year have reached 450, up 14% compared to the same time last year. The majority of those crimes were committed with guns.
Khalif Mujahid-Ali, the founder and CEO of the Beloved Care Project, said his group will also have a presence at the new hub. Using “violence interrupters” and mentors, the organization mediates conflicts in neighborhoods where shootings are most likely to occur.
“We also need to have these boots on the ground, because we can make safe havens,” he said, “but there’s nothing more safer than making the streets safe.”
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania will advise and monitor the programs, then evaluate the impact. Sara Solomon, deputy director of the Penn Injury Science Center, said the new partnership allows academics to apply what they know about the root causes of gun violence “to the specific context and needs of the surrounding neighborhoods.”
“Frankly,” she said, “I’m fed up that there’s not a better bridge between research, what we know, and practice to be implemented and adapted to the context of the community.”
City Councilperson Jamie Gauthier, who represents parts of West Philadelphia, said the conditions related to gun violence in her district have placed an “unprecedented” demand on local social services agencies, and she said the new partnership is a creative way to address “our most urgent task as a city right now.”
“Gun violence is a crisis that’s not going to go away on its own,” she said. “It’s not just a matter of policing and putting more people in prison. It’s about understanding the needs of the community, about understanding the scarcity within our neighborhoods and what people resort to when they feel like no one has a stake in their future and ensuring that they thrive.”