Pittsfield Community Connection, a program of 18 Degrees, has been awarded nearly $600,000 through the MA Department of Public Health Gun Violence Prevention Program (GVPP). These funds will expand our work with young people in the City of Pittsfield and explore and challenge existing systems and practices that contribute to youth involvement in criminal or gang-related activities including gun violence.
The communities most affected by violence have long histories of deep social and economic inequity. Discriminatory lending practices, poor access to social services and medical care, and lack of business investment mean that people in these communities have been denied fundamental economic, educational, and employment opportunities for generations.
Research shows that the stress of growing up in traumatized communities can impact learning, behavior, mental health and chronic disease, but youth who have opportunities to work toward a better future can go on to lead healthy and productive lives. We also know that gun violence is preventable, and violence-free communities promote well-being for people of all ages.
The funding will allow for the establishment of a Youth Commission and a Community Advisory Council to inform this work and address the causes of youth violence as a public health matter. Through a racial equity and trauma-informed lens, 18 Degrees will provide critical supports, such as close connections with trustworthy adults, opportunities to learn new skills, and access to the job market. The GVPP will bring added resources and expand our ability to reach more young people in Pittsfield growing our community safer and stronger.