Standing in front of its Chestnut street office in West Philadelphia, the West/Southwest Collaborative cut a sky blue ribbon Monday, signaling the beginning of a partnership to address gun violence.
As part of the announcement about the four-group collaboration, District Attorney Larry Krasner held his weekly briefing on gun violence.
In the aftermath of a week that saw Philadelphia reach a grim milestone of 450 homicides for the year, leaders from the Anti-Violence Partnership (AVP) of Philadelphia, DAO (District Attorney’s Office) C.A.R.E.S., Beloved Care Project and Penn Injury Science Center spoke about the opportunity to come together and maximize resources for the community.
“The number of homicides here today is 450,” Krasner said. “On this date last year, it was 395. This is an increase of 14%. Obviously, that is terrible and deeply concerning.”
Although the homicide rate has increased overall this year, the last two weeks have incrementally decreased. Since March 2020, there has been an average of 10.5 homicides per week. Last week there were three, Krasner said.
“We stand in solidarity to say enough is enough,” he said.
“I want to highlight and appropriately appreciate the men and women who serve as victim advocates, violence interrupters who provide support to victims, co-victims families, and communities that are impacted by gun violence. We have talked many times about our C.A.R.E.S. program. Still, I’m delighted, honestly, to be here for this ribbon cutting and talk about this fascinating collaboration that we have going on here.”
For almost 40 years, the AVP has been working with Philadelphia individuals and families to help end the cycle of violence through many services, including counseling. However, because of its offices closing during the pandemic, the organization began thinking of joining forces with other community-based organizations to become a conglomerate for gun violence rehabilitation. In addition, because gun violence is exponentially growing in the city, the organization needed more workforce.
“We further thought, can we transform this office into a community-centric space for AVP and our partners to collaborate and coordinate our services to optimize responsiveness and care to those impacted by violence,” said Natasha Danielá de Lima McGlynn, executive director of AVP.
“This thought is being materialized into the West/Southwest Collaborative to reduce gun violence. A multicultural, multi-generational, multi-organizational coordination of expertise, skills, and services from the public, academic non-profit, and grassroots levels to collectively address the scale and complexity of gun violence in Western and Southwest Philadelphia, two geographic areas in Philadelphia that have the highest concentrated violence,” she said. “The vision is simple. Together, we can end the cycle of violence.”
The new collaborative space at 5548 Chestnut St. will provide services for those who have lost someone to violence. Services will be offered through traditional and non-traditional methods, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and support groups, yoga therapy and healing circles.
“Philadelphia has been noted to work in silos,” and we want to break that notion of work in silos, said Rev. Myra Maxwell, Director, DAO C.A.R.E.S Unit.
The Beloved Care Project is a group that will be offering healing circles as a part of the WSW Collaborative.
“The more organizations that come together, like we’re coming together now, the more work that we can do to prevent the next victim or the next perpetrator of crime,” said Khalif Mujahid-Ali, founder and CEO of the Beloved Care Project.
Krasner said $69 million in grant funding had been put into the budget for violence prevention efforts because of officials like Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, who attended the ribbon-cutting.
“Since coming into office in 2020, I’ve attended more vigils, emergency community meetings, and anti-violence rallies than I ever could have imagined,” Gauthier said.
“No person or community should ever have to suffer this level of trauma and have to accept it as just the way that things are in this city. That’s why the WSW Collaborative is so very exciting because it allows these organizations to leverage their collective expertise to support people who are going through what’s likely the most difficult moment of their lives. I’m grateful to have partners in all of these organizations.”