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June 02, 2021

City councilmembers propose anti-violence initiative that would create jobs for youth, extend rec center hours

Councilmember Helen Gym says the programs could be paid for with $50 million in federal funding

Government Budget
060221-anti-violence-youths.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

A group of Philadelphia City Councilors are calling on Mayor Jim Kenney to allocate the city's $50 million in federal relief funding to resources and services that bolster youth safety and reduce gun violence in the city.

Since January 2020, more than 820 people under the age of 21 have been injured or killed by gun violence in Philadelphia.

Now several city councilmembers, led by Helen Gym, are pushing for the Kenney Administration to use the city's $50 million in federal relief funding to address the rising youth gun violence. 

These include extending recreation center hours, creating more job opportunities for young people and giving resources to Philadelphia schools most affected by gun violence.

Councilmembers hosted a news conference on Tuesday at Hawthorne Recreation Center in South Philadelphia where they introduced the Youth Powered Anti-Violence Agenda. The agenda came out of the Committee on Children & Youth and was created in response to the young people impacted by gun violence who demanded action from the city.

"If we don’t prioritize our young people, we will be dealing with this same issue 10 years from now," Councilman Kenyatta Johnson said.

The politicians also said they supported an effort to get the Kenney administration to allocate another $100 million towards these anti-violence programs. 

This money would target neighborhoods with the greatest number of shootings by offering expanded services for youth in the area, including guaranteed employment and extending recreation centers hours to midnight, Metro Philly reported.

The plan would also funnel resources to the 25 public, charter and alternative schools most impacted by gun violence in the community. It would also bolster trauma counseling, youth programming and affordable housing in 10 zip codes with the highest number of shootings, most of which are in North and West Philadelphia.

This proposal comes as the mayor's office is finalizing the city's spending plan for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. So far, $36 million has been allocated for non-police, anti-violence initiatives – double what the city spent this fiscal year.

Kenney spokesperson Deana Gamble told Metro that the mayor's office had not yet reviewed the plan. 

"Nothing is more important to the mayor and this administration than reducing gun violence and saving lives – especially the lives of innocent children," Gamble said.

The Committee on Children & Youth met with organization and community leaders, held public hearings and hosted town halls to hear from young people firsthand. They also surveyed hundreds of members of the community and held two pubic town halls to address things students and schools need to promote safety.

"Young people told us that their neighborhoods are in crisis, and demanded the city take immediate action to improve their lives," said Councilmember Gym. "We must instead invest in programs and services that will improve the lives of young people, prevent spiraling violence, and build a system where youth grow up knowing their lives are valued and their potential is limitless."

Councilmembers Jamie Gauthier, Kendra Brooks, Kenyatta Johnson, Isaiah Thomas, Katherine Gilmore Richardson and Mark Squilla voiced support for the agenda, alongside community advocates.

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