Philadelphia, PA − May 21, 2024 − Senator Hughes was joined by Representative Morgan Cephas and leaders from Episcopal Community Services to recognize a new round of Violence Intervention and Prevention (VIP) funding that was awarded through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) and celebrate over $870,000 that was awarded to Episcopal Community Services and their program, St. Barnabas, located at 60th and Girard.

“The VIP program was created to invest in neighborhood organizations and make sure dedicated people who are on the front lines in our communities working to stop gun violence have the resources they need,” said Senator Hughes. “The recipients of these grants, including Episcopal Community Services, are bringing hope and life to communities and we’re seeing positive outcomes of that work. We’ve seen an over 40% reduction in Philadelphia homicides compared to this time last year, and that reduction is the highest of any large city in the country.”

The VIP grant program was started in 2018 to prevent gun violence by investing in community organizations that actively work every day to fight the gun violence epidemic. Since Senator Hughes led the start of the VIP initiative with fellow Democrats, the program has awarded over $212 million dollars to over 250 grassroots organizations.

At the press conference, Representative Cephas added, “We firmly believe a multi-pronged strategy will take us in a different direction with gun violence, and it has been working. There’s been a reduction in violent crime and that is a result of investing in communities, not just arresting our way out of the problem.”

Episcopal Community Services (ECS) was awarded 874,042 in the latest round of VIP grant funding to launch a new, comprehensive neighborhood revitalization project focused on violence prevention through residential block cleaning in West Philadelphia.

“The gun violence we’re experiencing is a symptom of a lack of employment opportunities, limited housing resources, and limited economic growth,” said Rhena McClain, Senior Director of Episcopal Community Services’ St. Barnabas Community Resource Center. “With the funds awarded through this VIP grant we will launch a neighborhood revitalization program designed not just to keep the streets clean but to keep them safe and bring new opportunities to community members.”

Senator Hughes recently announced $24 million dollars in VIP grants for multiple, local organizations in Philadelphia and Montgomery counties who are working directly with neighborhoods to prevent and stop gun violence. In total, $40 million was awarded to organizations across Pennsylvania.

Governor Shapiro has proposed investing $100 million in the VIP program in the 24-25 budget.

On the future of the program, Senator Hughes explained, “I’m committed to working with Governor Shapiro and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to make sure more funds are invested to support this important program. I’ll be fighting for at least $100 million in the next budget to ensure that community groups are able to continue their impactful work.”

A full video of the press conference is available online.