Report on at-risk Philly youth identifies some causes of gun violence, proposes solutions

Read the full report from nonprofit ManUpPHL

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Community leaders continue to look for ways to quell the gun violence plaguing the streets of Philadelphia. The nonprofit ManUpPHL conducted a nine-month study that revealed some recurring themes underlying violent crime in the city — and offered some potential solutions.

The idea for the study came from the group's main initiative, "Listening to the Streets," which draws on the experiences of young men who are all too familiar with gun violence, while teaching them life skills, addressing their trauma, and leading them to employment opportunities.

Board Chair Dr. Brian Ellis, who is also an associate dean of academic programs at Drexel University's Lebow College of Business, thought it would be better to take a closer look by conducting a full study involving some of the participants.

"Research allows us, through a thoughtful and systematic process, to really investigate any phenomenon," Ellis said. "So a study like this allows us to get more knowledge about gun violence that's plaguing the black male population, particularly here in Philadelphia."

Ellis said the resulting 39-page document reveals some of the common threads among these men's lives, including trauma, self worth and wanting to be loved, family influence, and communal limitations — meaning that living in poverty and crime is often a set up for failure.

"For me this was a bit surprising, just because it's an ecosystem of connectivity amongst their peers," Ellis said.

ManUpPHL studied a group of 25 young men, many of whom were quite candid about their experiences in the streets. Executive Director Solomon Jones says nine of them in particular were completely transparent.

"We had a young man who was shot on the same block that his father was shot. We had other young men talk about being shot by and set up by friends. I'll never forget one young man who said, 'our fathers and mentors are all in jail.'"

Jones says one teen said he couldn't get into any charter schools and, as the young man tells his story, he was put in his neighborhood school with monsters, so he had no choice but to become a monster.

"They are talking about foundational stuff that happens way before the trigger is ever pulled!" Jones said.

Recommended solutions coming out of the study include partnering incarcerated leaders with community agencies to address gun violence from the inside out, creating jobs for at-risk youth, and placing mental health substations in communities heavily affected by gun violence so people have a place to go to get help with trauma.

The organization plans to take these and other ideas to City Council with the hope of pushing the initiatives forward.