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Abuse intervention services for those with criminal histories of intimate partner violence, arts workshops to process trauma, and a community mediation initiative that will bring together Latinx immigrant and Black youth are among nine projects chosen to receive Johns Hopkins University's Innovation Fund for Community Safety grant awards.
These grassroots endeavors will share nearly $6 million in seed money from the university to establish programs to help make Baltimore's streets safer and its communities stronger. Each winning project comes at the complex, engrained issue of violence with a creative community-led approach and promises to quickly spark positive change.
"If we hope to turn the tide on violence in our community and in our city, then we must look to models like the Innovation Fund that demonstrate what can happen when we pool our collective resources, leverage our individual expertise, and explore new solutions together," JHU President Ronald J. Daniels said. "We are truly excited about the selected projects and look forward to the impact they will make in our city and for our neighbors."
Daniels and Bloomberg School of Public Health Dean Ellen MacKenzie in September announced the creation of the Johns Hopkins Innovation Fund for Community Safety, in which community organizations could apply for annual grants of up to $250,000 per project. The effort, a key component of the institution's commitment to reimagining public safety, augments the university's existing work in Baltimore—financial investments, technical assistance, and legislative advocacy—supporting education, job training and creation, and public safety efforts.
Following a series of community meetings and a partner matching session convened by Vice President for Economic Development Alicia Wilson and Bloomberg School Vice Dean Josh Sharfstein in January, Johns Hopkins released a request for proposals for the fund's first applicants and received 75 applications by the deadline of Feb. 25.
The selection advisory committee, made up of six community residents and six Johns Hopkins affiliates, reviewed the grants and advised on funding decisions. Ultimately, nine projects were chosen to receive three years of funding with the potential for an additional year based on progress of the project and the availability of funds. Collectively, these projects will support 30 community partners serving nearly 16,000 Baltimore residents.
The winners are:
Abuse Intervention Supportive Services, House of Ruth Maryland: This project will intervene with men and women who have criminal histories of intimate partner violence and aims to protect their prior victims, children, future partners, and the community at large.
Baltimore Legacy Builders Collective, Job Opportunities Task Force: The Collective is a collaboration of three organizations that provide social emotional learning, STEM education, and workforce development programming to youth and young adults in Baltimore. This project will support youth mentoring, after-school programming, and direct engagement with dirt bike culture to identify and support people at high risk in Baltimore, and aims to serve 180 youth over three years.
Block Captain Boot Camp, No Boundaries Coalition: This project will train community leaders to be "block captains" and provide them with funds for environmental improvements and other innovative projects in their areas. The goal is to encourage engagement at the household level, so that community members can organize, advocate, and act on behalf of their own needs.
Existential Determinants of Health, WombWork Productions: This project will support arts and storytelling workshops to process and reflect on traumatic memories in an open and supportive forum with coaching and mentorship. Community members will be trained to lead mentorship and support activities.
Good Harvest Occupational Skills Training Program, St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore: This project will enroll young people who are not currently engaged in school or work in a food service occupational skills training program. The model combines in-classroom instruction with real world experience in the Good Harvest production kitchen and leads to an industry accepted certification. The program aims to support 225 youth over three years.
McElderry Multiracial Organization Project, CASA: This project will support mediation and relationship building between Black and Latinx communities in McElderry Park through neighborhood community organizing, antiracism and leadership training, community building events, and youth programming. The project aims to reach 1,650 people over three years.
Mildred A. Allen Arabber Equestrian and Heritage Center, Baltimore Heritage: This project will establish a food justice intervention, co-curricular and workforce training program, mentoring services ranging from trauma support to visiting artists and relatable young business leaders to advance community health and safety, cultural preservation, and youth entrepreneurship in traditionally African American communities. The project aims to serve 4,980 youth over three years.
Safety at the Margins, Charm City Care Connection: This project seeks to increase safety for people who use drugs and people who do sex work in East Baltimore by increasing the presence of trained outreach staff in areas with high levels of violence and drug use; connecting people with wraparound services, supporting them to increase safety in their lives through access to resources and improved housing; and engaging in community building with sex workers to build alternative public safety mechanisms. The project aims to reach 7,410 people over three years.
Stable Homes – Safe Communities, Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland: This project will utilize volunteers and staff lawyers to host up to 12 free legal clinics annually with wraparound social services in targeted low-income neighborhoods in East Baltimore with a focus on securing safe and affordable housing, preserving intergenerational resources, preventing homelessness, and stabilizing communities. The Resource Center will also offer free legal "Know Your Rights" presentations relevant to stable housing, community safety, and other core issues. The project aims to serve 350 families over three years.
The work will begin in July.
House of Ruth Maryland leaders said they were proud to use the grant for a "transformative" program that will allow their organization to be among the first in the nation to adopt a supportive, public health approach to working with abusive partners.
"House of Ruth Maryland will expand our work with abusive partners by providing wraparound supportive services that address high lethality indicators such as unemployment and substance abuse, while removing barriers to engagement and providing wellness programming," said Lisa Nitsch, director of training & education. "We hope that expanding our model to be more supportive of our participant's overall wellness, in addition to addressing their abusive behavior, will be transformative for the families we serve."
While the initial awards support efforts near the university's campuses in Charles Village and East Baltimore, the hope is that successful projects can be replicated across the city by other community programs or institutions.
"It was an honor to witness the forging of thoughtful, innovative collaborations between community leaders and Johns Hopkins faculty," said Wilson, the Innovation Fund co-director. "It is my hope that this serves as a model of how collaborations between local residents and universities can solve societal challenges."