Pew awards $4.5M to Philly nonprofits fighting gun violence, creating jobs

PHILADELPHIA — On a day when the city reached an ugly milestone of 300 homicides in 2022, many by gun violence, the Pew Charitable Trusts awarded $4.25 million to four non-profits to create more jobs for city residents and for programs dealing with violence every day.

According to Pew, the grants include: a five-year, $3.5 million to West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, to help create jobs for 2,500 unemployed or under employed city residents; and three two-year $250,000 grants each to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Violence Intervention Program; Drexel University’s Healing Hurt People program; and Temple University Hospital’s Trauma Victim Support Advocates program.

“We know that violence is raging in some of the places that have the highest rates of chronic unemployment,” Scott Charles, the Trauma Outreach Manager at Temple Hospital, said.

So Charles said that the hospital will use Pew funds grants to add professionals to its trauma team, such as a job placement specialist, a social worker, a psychologist and a case manager to coordinate care. Since the pandemic, many victims of violence and their families have had been able to access mental health services, he said.

“So we are not just patching them up and discharging them back to the situations that brought them here,’ Charles said. “We are going to take one of the worse possible things that could happen to someone and recognize the opportunity that might exist to improve their circumstances.”

The Pew Fund grants are designed to help Philadelphia health and social services organizations to expand services for those facing challenges from poverty and other issues, such as unemployment and gun violence.

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We know that violence is raging in some of the places that have the highest rates of chronic unemployment,” Scott Charles, the Trauma Outreach Manager at Temple Hospital, said

“Our growth grant to University City District recognizes that, as a large city with big opportunities and challenges, we need effective programs like the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative operating on a larger scale,” said Kristin Romens, the Pew Fund’s project director. “And with our venture grant support to three exceptional hospital-based violence intervention programs, we hope to see further evidence that these programs not only help victims recover physically and emotionally from the trauma of violence but also have long-term, positive impacts on the overall well-being of individuals and families.”

At Temple Hospital a trauma team is available to victims of violence around the clock, said Charles, the hospital’s trauma outreach manager.

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“What those individuals do is provide emotional support to victims of crimes and their loved ones,” Charles said. “They offer comfort at the bedside and they communicate information between the violently injured patient and their loved ones and between their loved ones and the physicians.”

In addition, the team provides grief support to families, in cases of homicide, he said.

“What we realized was there were a lot of things that we could be providing particularly now that we have immediate access to those with the greatest needs,” Charles said.

In addition, all three hospital programs will participate in a citywide program hosted by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, collect data for research, share resources and identify best practices.

“Our goal for our grant money is to think about how we can better understand the things that we are helping families achieve and change through the course of our program,” said Rachel K. Myers, co-director of the CHOP’s Violence Intervention Program. “Informally, we hear a lot from families about the success they realize after working in our violence intervention program and we want to be able to better understand and measure that impact and show the ways we are helping to improve safety, mental health, recovery and support.”

Matt Bergheiser, president of the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, (WPSI) said the Pew grants will allow the group to expand its program.

WPSI has provided customized job training programs for Philadelphia employers such as CHOP, Philly Shipyard, SEPTA and Tastykake.

“More than anything else, we are about connecting untapped talent to opportunity,” Bergheiser said. “We think that when you connect talent to opportunity it pays dividends across the community. We think when you invest in people and place you can really begin to grapple with a lot of issues that we are experiencing across the city.”

The keys to some of the city’s problems, such as gun violence is lifting people out of poverty through good paying jobs, he said.

“We are deepening our focus on job quality, so jobs that pay $18 an dollar or more with full benefits and advancement opportunities that can take people to the next level in their careers.” Bergheiser said. “We are expanding our work in three ways, we are expanding geographically we are not just West Philadelphia anymore.”

WPSI has expanded into the Navy Yard in South Philadelphia and is now focused on jobs for Philadelphians throughout the city, he said.

“The third way we are growing is we are focusing on not just this first job, but what comes next? How do we work with our alumni to moving them up the ladder?” Bergheiser said.

WPSI has provided intensive coaching and support to our participants in the program.

“As we expand, we want to extend those services to our alumni,” Bergheiser said. “Even once they get that job they are still in our orbit and we are able to support their growth as they move up to supervisor and management positions.”

Stephen Williams is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.

Originally published at,by Special to the Capital-Star

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