New center brings violence prevention groups together in West Philly

Councilwoman Jamie Gauthier speaks about the new West/Southwest Collaborative Response to Gun Violence.
PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

The Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia’s waitlist for counseling services has grown sevenfold over the past year, as the city has experienced historic levels of shootings and homicides.

So when the organization was deciding what to do with its West Philadelphia office, shuttered since March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, it decided to invite other groups into the space.

Three other violence prevention partners signed on, and the building is now serving as the home to the newly-formed West/Southwest Collaborative Response to Gun Violence.

Elected leaders and anti-violence advocates on Monday officially opened the facility at 56th and Chestnut streets. They hope it will serve as a community hub for those affected by violence in an area that has been shaken by frequent gunfire.

“It allows each of our organizations to work in close collaboration to complement services, align programmatic activities and maximize responses to the immediate individual and community needs of our surrounding neighborhoods,” said Natasha Danielá de Lima McGlynn, AVP’s executive director.

Natasha Danielá de Lima McGlynn, executive director of the Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia, speaks Monday, Oct. 25, about the new West/Southwest Collective Response to Gun Violence.PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

Beloved Care, a local nonprofit that plans to run healing circles for teenagers and young adults, is moving into the center, as is the University of Pennsylvania’s Injury Science Center, which studies violence.

“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,” Penn’s Sarah Solomon told reporters.

The District Attorney’s Office Crisis Assistance, Response, and Engagement for Survivors Unit, which provides immediate help to victims and their loved ones, will also operate out of the building.

Officials said the collaborative is the first-of-its-kind in the city to bring academia, government services, nonprofits and neighborhood organizations together under one roof.

“Philadelphia has, at times, been noted to work in silos, and we want to break that notion,” said the Rev. Myra Maxwell, who heads the DA’s CARES Unit.

The groups will focus on West and Southwest Philadelphia, where a combined 85 people have been killed this year in shootings and 392 have been injured, according to the Community College of Philadelphia’s Center for Gun Violence Reporting.

On Sunday, at around 8:30 p.m. gunmen inside a car opened fire on another vehicle, which crashed in the parking lot of a Wendy’s on the 7700 block of Lindbergh Boulevard in the Eastwick neighborhood of Southwest Philadelphia, investigators said.

The suspects fatally shot the driver, a 25-year-old man, at close range and also shot a 24-year-old pregnant woman in the lower back. She and her unborn child are expected to survive, according to authorities.

Two hours later, in a seemingly unrelated incident, a 34-year-old man was found dead of a puncture wound to the neck in a back alley near the 6200 block of Woodland Avenue, also in Southwest Philadelphia, police said.

“Sometimes from my perspective at least, it doesn’t feel like the city as a whole has fully appreciated the severity of our gun violence crisis,” said City Councilwoman Jamie Gauthier, whose district includes West Philadelphia.

“But in our communities here in West and Southwest Philly, we are so disproportionately impacted that we don’t have the luxury of turning a blind eye to this issue,” she added.

Maxwell said the collaborative office will allow crisis response teams to reach victims and their families sooner and refer them to long-term services.

Additional organizations may join the West/Southwest Collaborative, representatives said, and McGlynn said AVP hopes to replicate the model in other sections of the city.

“Complex problems require complex solutions,” McGlynn said. “We need to do things differently. And when we come together, we can make a collective impact.”

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