For more than 35 years, LCF has been committed to ensuring that every Baltimore resident has an opportunity to live in a safe and healthy neighborhood and enjoy equal access to available resources. Living Classroom’s work in neighborhood safety is significant and informed by community residents and our community partners. Living Classrooms’ core competencies are education, workforce development, and health & wellness – all of which directly and indirectly impact the safety of individuals and their communities.
During a visit to Baltimore on Thursday, September 29th, 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs announced grant awards totaling $100 million to support communities throughout the United States in efforts to reduce gun crime and other serious violence. Living Classrooms Foundation is honored to have been awarded $1,950,000 and is one of three Baltimore recipients.
With this investment from the US Department of Justice, Living Classrooms will leverage its existing programs, partnerships, and services to establish a trauma-informed Crisis Intervention Management System that will target underlying factors contributing to violence in East Baltimore communities. The Living Classrooms Crisis Intervention Management System is modeled after New York’s successful programming and will address the immediate needs, including food, housing, employment training, and mental health interventions, of those individuals at the highest risk of being either a victim or perpetrator of violence. As part of this system, Living Classrooms will expand its current workforce development services with the creation of a mobile Crisis Management Team, which will provide 1) assessments of needs conducted by a licensed clinical social worker, 2) intensive real-time case management through workshops and programming during non-traditional hours, and 3) Navigators who will guide and connect individuals to needed resources. The program will serve 150 individuals and families over three years and will support to individuals and families, complementing the existing Baltimore City Safe Streets Violence Prevention sites located in Belair-Edison and McElderry Park.
The Living Classrooms Crisis Management Team will engage individuals and families who are victims or perpetrators of violence or have been identified as at high risk of being affected by violence by developing individualized comprehensive crisis management plans and networks of resources tailored to each person’s specific needs. The program will draw upon evidence-based practices and enhance existing community violence intervention models with asset & resource mapping of the communities and staffing to connect individuals and resources. Emerging evidence shows that strong community outreach combined with intensive case management that meets the needs of individuals may reduce violence.
Another example of a particularly successful collaboration involved the Baltimore City Health Department, which partnered with Living Classrooms in 2007 to launch the first Safe Streets site in Baltimore, based on the Cure Violence model that originated in Chicago. Living Classrooms leaned into that commitment with incredible dedication and determination and has continued to be strong proponents of the work. That program was successful in reducing homicides in the McElderry Park neighborhood. Over the next several years, Living Classrooms worked with the City and Dr. Daniel Webster to build an evidence-based approach to scaling the Safe Streets program. Throughout the years, Living Classrooms has implemented research-based methodologies and interventions to address gun violence through a public health lens.
From 2007 to 2022, the City of Baltimore provided Living Classrooms with funding to implement its Safe Streets programming. In addition to Baltimore City funding, Living Classrooms raised over $850,000 in non-City funds to support Safe Streets over the years.
Since Mayor Scott took office in 2020, the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (MONSE) has been focused on developing a clear path for the continued development of the community violence intervention ecosystem in Baltimore City. Working with partner community-based organizations, the City recognizes that scaling violence intervention work for the long-term must involve a holistic approach to addressing community violence. That process has involved MONSE collecting and analyzing data from all the City’s Safe Streets sites, looking at best practices from other jurisdictions implementing violence intervention models, and working with a range of partners to ensure the foundational strength of a community violence intervention ecosystem in which Safe Streets is one of many programs.
One result of that in-depth analysis was the City’s decision to transition management of Safe Streets sites to health systems to facilitate the integration of work with victims of gun violence and their families in hospital settings and work with perpetrators and victims of gun violence and community resources. Management of the McElderry Park and Belair-Edison Safe Streets sites transitioned from Living Classrooms to LifeBridge Health because, as a healthcare provider, LifeBridge Health is better positioned to facilitate the direct integration of hospital and community work than is Living Classrooms, leaving Living Classrooms with capacity to increase provision of other types of programming, such as our Project SERVE program which provides a rapid attachment to work and holistic case management to returning citizens, as part of a community violence intervention ecosystem.
Living Classrooms is no longer engaged in the day-to-day administration of Safe Streets sites. The sites formerly managed by Living Classrooms at McElderry Park and Belair-Edison were transitioned to the management of LifeBridge Health as of September 30, 2022 in accordance with the City’s plan. Living Classrooms has tremendous respect for LifeBridge Health as an organization, civic leader, and steady partner in Baltimore’s community violence intervention ecosystem.
Other specific roles of Living Classrooms in a holistic community violence intervention ecosystem will be determined through collaboration and partnership with the communities with which Living Classrooms engages, including the McElderry Park and Belair-Edison neighborhoods. They will include education, workforce development, health & wellness, and/or community safety programming that is separate from the work of Safe Streets but complements and amplifies that important work.
Living Classrooms remains deeply committed to community safety in neighborhoods and is looking forward to building new partnerships and strengthening existing collaborations so that together we can create the resources and opportunities that support our communities in becoming stronger, healthier, and safer.