Mayor Michelle Wu on May 25 announced the City of Boston’s comprehensive plan for a safe and healthy summer for all Boston residents, communities, and neighborhoods. Mayor Wu announced several violence prevention and intervention initiatives, including the Community Ambassadors Program, “Adopt a Block” initiative, Operation Homefront, and new employment and job training opportunities. These programs fill critical gaps in service delivery, build new possibilities for Boston, and ensure the City fully supports our communities most directly impacted by violence with the safety, trust, and accessibility that residents deserve.
This new, intensive approach addresses public safety through a lens of public health, equity, economic opportunity, and community trust. The initiatives announced today will also organize the wide variety of preexisting programs from the Mayor’s Office, Boston Public Schools (BPS), the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), the Human Services Cabinet, and the Boston Police Department (BPD) into a coordinated network of services to support Boston residents this summer.
“Too many people in our communities live with the fear and threat of violence. As a mom to two boys, as a neighbor, and as someone that cherishes the friends, family, and neighborhoods we have in Boston, I will move with urgency to make sure our communities are safe,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “We have been reimagining public safety through the lens of health, equity, and community trust. We are taking a wraparound approach to create new violence intervention and prevention initiatives and expand and improve existing programs.”
In an effort to better connect with residents and strengthen violence intervention efforts in Boston’s neighborhoods, the Mayor’s Office is launching a Community Ambassadors Program, a new initiative that will work to engage, inform, and support residents who are most vulnerable to gun and gang violence. This program will expand City services in supporting residents’ transition from high risk activity to resourced and engaged community work that improves neighborhood conditions.
The ambassadors, residents of Boston neighborhoods with close community ties and a shared commitment to anti-violence programming, will work in two-person teams (with a total of ten teams) through the summer months and into the first quarter of the school year, a pivotal time for reaching residents most impacted by violence. Teams will each be assigned to historically underserved and under-resourced areas and neighborhoods throughout Boston to ensure our most vulnerable residents are connected to the resources they need and deserve. The Community Ambassadors will report directly to Rufus Faulk, the Mayor’s Senior Policy Advisor for Public Safety, and partner with the Boston Housing Authority, Boston Public Health Commission, and the Human Services Cabinet. This program will further drive the City’s work to create more pathways and support systems for residents, currently seen with BCYF’s SOAR Boston program and BPHC Neighborhood Trauma Team Network (NTT) outreach and crisis on-site response work.
“The Community Ambassadors Program will lean on the social capital, knowledge, and experience of our local community leaders to better connect our neighborhoods and families who have been disproportionately impacted by community violence with City services and resources,” said Dr. Rufus Faulk, Senior Advisor for Public Safety. “This program will drive more place based initiatives and intentional engagement with underserved individuals, families and communities. These Community Ambassadors will have the lived experience to serve as tangible examples of success to our neighborhoods and community leaders in our pursuit of a more equitable Boston for all.”
Through vetted referral groups in their assigned area or neighborhood, ambassadors will engage key populations identified as disproportionately impacted by violence. Ambassadors will connect these populations with resources and services that fit their unique needs.Those populations have been identified as follows:
• Individuals and families within the BHA footprint and communities who have been disproportionately impacted by gun violence (for example, Humboldt Ave corridor).
• Juvenile/young adult populations within BPS, DYS, and the Suffolk County DA’s Office department of juvenile diversion under the age of 21.
• Gang members who are driving violence between the ages of 21-24.
• Individuals aged 25+ looking to transition fully from active gang involvement.
In an intentional effort to address this issue within our school communities, Boston Public Schools is reinstating Operation Homefront, a nationally acclaimed collaboration with the Boston Police Department, that centers around community-building and family relationships in violence prevention and intervention. Following a referral, the Operation Homefront team – consisting of law enforcement officers, Boston Public Schools staff, service providers, and clergy members – will conduct home visits to inform parents or guardians about their child’s behavior and provide resources. This effort is key to provide wraparound services to both students and families heading into summer months.
“The past two years have been incredibly challenging for our children, and they need all the support they can get, not just from Boston Public Schools but from the entire City of Boston,” said Superintendent Brenda Cassellius. “When City partners, community advocates and local businesses come together to lift them up and expand their options, anything is possible. These youth jobs and programs not only offer students valuable work experience and adult mentoring that enhances their academic endeavors, they also help keep them safe, engaged and out of harm’s way during the summer.”
“Operation Homefront has been a tremendous tool for years for identifying and assisting at-risk students and getting them the services and supports they need,” said Superintendent-in–Chief Greg Long. “The Boston Police Department is thrilled that Operation Homefront is being reinstated and look forward to continuing our partnerships with clergy and the Boston Public Schools. Undoubtedly this will lead to more young people getting the interventions they need to divert them from delinquency, gang involvement or criminal behavior.”
Adopt a Block
Building on the Mayor’s commitment to address the root causes of violence, the City is also revamping the “Adopt A Block” Initiative, a partnership between the City of Boston and various faith communities to serve residents and families in neighborhoods that have historically experienced an increase in violence during the summer months. Starting on June 1, this initiative will utilize a public health, wraparound approach to identify impacted families, effectively address quality of life needs, and better connect families with crucial city services and resources.
Recognizing the critical role that faith-based organizations play in delivering crucial programs and services, particularly to underserved Black and Brown communities, the “Adopt a Block’’ Initiative will support faith institutions’ efforts to connect and support residents’ safety and health. Additionally, the faith organizations will partner with the City to host summer community events, food distribution events, homlessness prevention services and neighborhood cleanups. This initiative will be piloted in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan.
The following faith leaders and institutions will serve as partnering point of contacts with the City for the immediate areas surrounding their institution and the aforementioned neighborhoods:
• Roxbury: Reverend Dr. Willie Bodrick, II; Twelfth Baptist Church (160 Warren St, Roxbury, MA 02119)
• Dorchester (especially Codman Square/Four Corners): Reverend John Marshall – Mt. Calvary Holy Assembly (297 Talbot Ave. Boston, MA 02124).
• Mattapan: Bishop Nicolas Homicil – Voice of the Gospel Tabernacle (47 Edgewater Drive, Mattapan, MA 02126)
This initiative aims to build trust between the city and residents, strengthen relationships between the City and critical faith organizations, provide opportunities for community engagement and improve delivery of City services to families most impacted by violence.
“As a faith leader in this city, I believe that it is important to prioritize our youth and provide opportunities to ensure that we have a safe summer,” said Rev. Dr. Willie Bodrick, II, Senior Pastor, Twelfth Baptist Church. “We must engage families and provide wrap-around services and programs to ensure that they have the resources needed as we work to curtail violence. Our youth are important and I look forward to partnering with the City of Boston and other organizations to meet our City’s needs and keep our communities safe.”
The BPHC offers many violence intervention and prevention programs, including the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative (SSYI). SSYI works with teens and young adults between the ages of 17 and 24 who have been impacted by community gun violence to connect them with mental health services, educational opportunities, and workforce programs. By providing more intensive support and services to those individuals more regularly impacted by or engaged in violence, this is a program designed to address entrenched issues at the root of violence. SSYI is an ongoing program that will continue throughout the summer.
Youth and Summer Job Programs
In addition to scaling up existing programs and launching new efforts to address the root causes of violence, Mayor Wu remains committed to creating opportunities for young people to access and pursue meaningful support networks and longer term, valuable career pathways.
The Green Jobs Initiative, led by newly appointed director Davo Jefferson, provides exciting opportunities for younger people to not only gain access to meaningful work experience, but also help make Boston a more equitable and resilient City. Inspired by the PowerCorpsPHL model, the Green Jobs Initiative connects primarily unemployed or underemployed young people and returning citizens with careers in industries addressing pressing environmental challenges. Members go through tailored training phases that provide sector-specific on-the-job training. They will also be able to get relevant credentials in a field of their choosing. The “earn and learn” model ensures that members are set up to succeed in career pathways. The Green Jobs Initiative will be supported by the Mayor’s historic $1 million investment in green jobs in the FY2022 budget.
As part of Mayor Wu’s commitment to expanding opportunities for youth, the City is now accepting applications and has expanded the 2022 Boston SuccessLink Summer Youth Jobs program to include 6,000 job opportunities,which is 1,000 more jobs than last year. Boston youth ages 14 to 18 (14-year-olds must turn 15 by September 1, 2022) can now apply for a summer job. Youth will have the opportunity to get connected to thousands of summer jobs that aim to promote skill building and networking through the City of Boston’s Department of Youth Engagement and Employment’s (DYEE) SuccessLink Employment Program. The Department will grant up to $3.8 million to local nonprofits for summer 2022.
Boston Centers for Youth & Families provides many summer programs and activities for youth and teens including summer day programs, girls-only activities, teen employment, sports leagues and many aquatics offerings. BCYF also makes their space available to youth and families across Boston as the host site for special events and activities organized by partnering agencies. On July 5th, BCYF community centers will begin their extended summer hours. Additionally, the BCYF centers are available to extend hours as needed for special situations to ensure that City programming can effectively engage youth and families impacted by violence.
This announcement builds on Mayor Wu’s commitment to transforming the structures of public safety and health to build safe, healthy communities, including yesterday’s announcement of the City’s Warm Weather Plan to address the ongoing challenges centered at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard and the recent historic investment in the Office of Returning Citizens. Additionally, Mayor Wu has worked to expand programming and employment for all Boston residents, including recent expansions of Early College and Innovation Pathways programming and the Summer Youth Jobs program. In January, Mayor Wu also took steps to build up public safety infrastructure, fully staffing OPAT’s Civilian Review Board and Internal Affairs Oversight Panel.