Gun violence prevention hotline aims to connect Philadelphians to resources

A sign announcing the gun violence prevention hotline is shown in the foreground, with elected officials speaking at a podium in the background.

File photo: Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and members of City Council announced that Philadelphia’s new gun violence prevention hotline, 211, is in operation, on March 28, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Working on a solution to gun violence and want to share it? Get in touch with gun violence prevention reporter Sammy Caiola here.

The City of Philadelphia’s 2-1-1 line is serving a new purpose: connecting people affected by gun violence to groups offering help.

The 2-1-1 hotline was already a gateway for those experiencing food insecurity and needing housing services. But now callers can dial in and choose option three, which gives them access to the city’s new 24/7 gun violence prevention hotline.

“Today is an important milestone in our fight against this crisis, one that will help save lives while connecting people to critical resources available in our communities,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said on Monday.

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The city launched the hotline in partnership with 211 Southeastern Pennsylvania and United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. The City Council allocated $1.4 million to the effort.

People who call the gun violence prevention line can get connected to one of 11 assigned “resource navigators.” These responders receive 80 hours of training in trauma-informed care, cultural competency, and mental health first-aid. They’ve also learned to identify existing gun violence prevention programs in different neighborhoods, according to the city.

But some community leaders say they are already making those connections for the people they serve, and would be wary of the city navigators.

“How do we really know that that is an actual real-time resource?” said Kendra Van de Water, executive director of YEAH Philly. “I know I probably wouldn’t use that, because we already have a lot of directories out there, and you have to keep updating the directories because they will be out of date very quickly.”

For situations where people are in conflict and need help with mediation, the city plans to connect callers to violence interrupters from the Philadelphia Anti-Drug/ Anti-Violence Network. The group has been working in the city for more than three decades, and already provides services through the city’s Community Crisis Intervention program.

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“What we’re talking about is getting in front of the violence, doing something before anybody has even picked up a gun, to talk them out of it,” said PAAN executive director George Mosee. “And at the same time provide resources: jobs, counseling, whatever it is they may need.”

George Mosee, executive director of PAAN, speaks at the podium surrounded by elected officials and other stakeholders.
“What we’re talking about is getting in front of the violence, doing something before anybody has even picked up a gun, to talk them out of it,” said PAAN executive director George Mosee. PAAN is part of the new gun violence prevention on March 28, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Mosee emphasized that people calling in can remain anonymous.

But Tyrique Glasgow, director of a youth-focused nonprofit called the Young Chances Foundation, said the city is “throwing band-aids on issues that are bigger.”

“The people that we work with on a day-to-day basis to provide those essential services … they have a lack of trust with government, particularly the police department,” he said. “So to think that the initiative of having a hotline will drastically drop the shootings, is ridiculous.”

He said this funding should be used to directly improve quality of life for people involved in or at risk of being involved in gun violence, including building community centers and providing people with food, documentation assistance, and other essentials.

City officials said they’re open to working with community groups already linking people to resources, such as the Philly Truce app, which has been building a hub for mediators and people in conflict since launching last year.

The city is accepting applications for more resource navigators and are asking agencies that provide services to register with the hotline.

If you or someone you know has been affected by gun violence in Philadelphia, you can find grief support and resources here.

Broke in PhillyWHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

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