Chicago To Spend $6M On ‘Street Outreach’ To Reduce Gun Violence | WBEZ
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Chicago To Spend $6M On ‘Street Outreach’ To Reduce Gun Violence

The city of Chicago is taking the first steps toward fulfilling Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s pledge to spend millions more dollars this year on community-based violence prevention efforts in the parts of the city suffering the most from gun violence.

On Thursday, the city is issuing a Request for Proposals worth $6 million, seeking a single nonprofit agency to coordinate and expand street-outreach programs that identify and provide services to people who are at high risk of being either victims or perpetrators of gun violence.

Existing street outreach efforts seek to deescalate conflict and provide jobs and other alternatives to those most likely to shoot or be shot in Chicago.

“Chicago’s violence interrupters, street outreach teams and community-based organizations have immersed themselves into the fabric of neighborhoods under a singular mission to protect the city we all call home,” Lightfoot said in a press release announcing the request for proposals.

She called the $6 million funding an “unprecedented investment” to help ensure that outreach organizations “have the resources to sustain their efforts towards keeping our residents safe.”

According to the Request for Proposals, the city is looking for an already existing agency to organize a collection of smaller outreach organizations under one umbrella and help connect them with the city and Police Department.

The winning organization will get funding to provide street outreach training, ensure staff safety, identify those most in need of outreach and help expand the capacity of the individual outreach organizations.

At a speech before the City Club on Monday, interim Chicago Police Superintendent Charlie Beck said street outreach workers would be key to reducing gun violence.

“These are workers that come from the community, that have ties throughout the community and that address gang and gun violence in a way that no police officer can,” Beck said.

The organization described in Thursday’s RFP mirror a number of existing efforts that are currently being funded by the private sector, including READI Chicago, Chicago CRED and Communities Partnering 4 Peace. Those organizations have said in order for their work to be sustainable the city needs to start putting up money.

Susan Lee, Chicago’s deputy mayor for public safety, worked with Chicago CRED before moving over to the city.

Proposals are due on Feb. 20, and the city wants to start the contract on May 1, 2020, just ahead of the summer months when violence typically spikes. The contract is set to last until the end of the year.

On Thursday, the city is also putting out a separate Request for Proposals seeking to spend $1.5 million on “trauma-informed victim services.” According to the RFP, the city wants to fund organizations that respond to violent crime scenes, provide counseling to victims and families and connect families to other support services.

“Violence needs to be addressed as a public health issue, as it can have a rippling and lasting impact on communities, spreading trauma to residents who historically may not have had access to the treatment they needed,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in the press release.

In her 2020 budget, Lightfoot pledged to spend $11.5 million on community-based public safety efforts in 15 neighborhoods that suffer the most from gun violence. The mayor’s press office touted it as a “seven-fold increase” over last year’s funding.

Still, organizations like Chicago CRED and READI Chicago have urged the city to invest more, pointing out $11.5 million is about a third of the funding for similar efforts in New York and Los Angeles. And the city’s budget for the Police Department is more than $1.5 billion annually.

At an event in November, Lee stressed that her office of public safety was just in the beginning stages and asked for patience.

Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice Desk. Follow him @pksmid. Email him at psmith@wbez.org.

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